David Keith Profile picture
Dec 28 17 tweets 4 min read
1/ Why not commercialize solar geoengineering?

Motivated by silly commercial stuff that bubbled up this year, this thread provides a few reasons why commercializing solar geoengineering is a terrible idea.

Bouquets, brickbats, or additional arguments most welcome.
2/ An example that just got some ink. More examples near end-of-thread. technologyreview.com/2022/12/24/106…
3/ Reason 1: SRM's defining challenge is trust. There is no reasonable doubt that commercial-off-the-shelf tech could be adapted to cool the planet at a tiny cost using strat aerosols. Science suggests benefits could be far larger than risks.
4/ But the research community is thin and distrust is widespread. Trust must be earned with a far broader, more inclusive research effort, one that makes systematic efforts to look for errors and uncertainty.
5/ Startup ventures may provide big social benefit by driving down costs. Yet startups feed on private knowledge and IP and they have deep incentives to oversell, features that reduce trust.
6/ Weak trust is OK when the performance of the product--heat pump or solar cell--is easy to check. And when one can opt out by choosing not to buy. Let competition run free in these markets.
7/ Trust is a barrier for systems with uncertain long-term consequences, particularly when people cannot op-out. We don't want capitalist free-for-all in education or health care.
8/ SRM is a preeminent example. We don't need capitalism making it cheaper. We need creative social structures developing dispersed understanding that can support decision-making and gain trust.
9/ N.B. We made similar arguments in a 2018 blog post: keith.seas.harvard.edu/blog/why-we-ch…
10/ Reason 2: Suppose you have a business that cools the planet. Global cooling is what econ's call a non-excludable good. Why pay if one can enjoy climate protection for free? Threaten to stop the cooling? Now we are in Dr Evil's territory. Governments should and will grab hold.
11/ Reason 3: Suppose you could sell cooling benefits in carbon markets. The price would be well under 1 $/ton. The result is you flood the market encouraging emissions and/or you do so much cooling you freeze the planet.
12/ Of course, research on SRM or (if it happens) implementation will need markets to supply services from stratospheric sensors to aircraft. No problem.
13/ What's crucial is that control of methods, materials, and scientific results be widely dispersed among universities, civil society, government labs, not-for-profits, and ventures. Trust no single institution.
14/ Should we worry about geoengineering-for-profit? There is interest. I have had three semi-serious calls with VC's who wanted to look for opportunities. (did my best to dissuade them.) And there are a few tiny ventures: e.g., Make Sunsets and Ethos Space.
15/ Worry is natural, given the chaotic profit-driven musky mess that is Twitter. But the venture effort in SRM is tiny. And my hunch is that it will stay that way due to principled opposition and a lack of a sensible business model.
16/ For more of my thinking on this topic see this post keith.seas.harvard.edu/blog/why-i-am-… or this @nyt op-ed nytimes.com/2021/10/01/opi…
17/ Thanks for your attention if you got this far. Comments? Counter-arguments? Further reading?

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More from @DKeithClimate

Nov 21
1/ Two pivotal illustrations of climate progress.

One: The flow of money to decarbonization has tripled to 0.75% of GDP in a decade

Two: Per capita emissions have peaked and total emissions will peak soon
2/ One: Decarbonization requires replacing the high-emissions energy infrastructure with a zero-emissions alternative.

flow of $$ --> clean infrastructure is a stronger measure of climate action than the flow of pledges --> mediasphere.
3/ Over a decade the flow of $$$ into decarbonization has tripled reaching 3/4 $trillion a year -- 0.75% of global GDP

data: @BloombergNEF about.bnef.com/blog/global-in…
Read 5 tweets
Aug 17
1/ Is every $ on CCS a waste? Enough folks asked me about this to tempt me to tweet.

Fair cop that CCS 1.0--CCS as a path to low carbon electricity – was overhyped by folks including me.

2/ Why were we wrong? Solar & wind got cheap (👏) fast and CCS cost were high.

But Harvey & House look only backward. Yet if you issued bids to procure large volumes of low-carbon cement today CCS would be the cheapest way to supply it. Similar for steel and some chemicals.
3/ Harvey & House don't examine intermittency and deep decarb. NG with CCS (looking at you NetPower) may play a role as electricity decarbonization proceeds and the challenge of intermittency get larger. Or maybe nukes or batteries win. But more options are good.
Read 6 tweets
Jul 6
1/ What if we regret not geoengineering?

Fear of overconfidence dominates thinking about SRM.

Scenario A: we believe SRM works and come to rely on it by underinvesting in emissions cuts, removal, and adaptation
2/ Fan & shit will then intersect if SRM turns out to be ineffective and risky.

Techno-hubris is dangerous. It's wise to fear overconfidence.
3/ But there is a converse risk.

Scenario B: we believe SRM is too risky or unnatural to contemplate and block deployment (looking at you @FHBBiermann)
Read 10 tweets
Jul 5
1/ Q: What is the value of research on solar geoengineering?

A: If research reduced uncertainty by 1/3 by 2030 it would be worth ~4 $trillion.

This thread explores why that crazy number that is both wrong and meaningful.

Our watch our 4 min video: player.vimeo.com/video/714634132
2/ Nerdy thread follows -- tune in tomorrow for a more political thread about opposition to research and regret about not geoengineering.
3/ "The value of information about solar geoengineering and the two-sided cost of bias" in Climate Policy paper with Tony @TonyHardingEco and Maria Belaia.

Full article at: doi.org/10.1080/146930…
Read 9 tweets
Nov 11, 2021
1/4: 3 new papers on solar geoengineering research and policy released today in Science:
2/4: Ted Parson's Editorial "Geoengineering: Symmetric precaution", @parson_ted
DOI: 10.1126/science.abj1587
3/4: Joe Aldy's al's Policy Forum, "Social science research to inform solar geoengineering"
DOI: 10.1126/science.abj6517,
@josephaldy and many other authors
Read 6 tweets
Oct 1, 2021
1/6 What's the least bad way to cool the planet?

My first try comparing carbon removal (CDR) and solar geoengineering (SG) is out as a 1,750 word Guest Essay in @nytopinion.

2/6 My hunch: SG may allow cooling over a human lifetime with less environmental risk and less social disruption than CDR.
3/6 You may want to scream: ignore tech-fixes, cut emissions!

Yes, emissions must be cut. We are f**ked without emissions cuts.

If I were climate Czar (a job I would fail at) I would spend >95% of current climate effort & $$ on cutting emissions or adaptation/resiliency.
Read 7 tweets

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