Climate Engineering

Year Awarded: 2016

This Initiative is actively conducting research.

Climate engineering, or geoengineering, is the deliberate, large-scale alteration of the climate system to counteract climate change caused by accumulating greenhouse gases. This new Initiative will address some of the pertinent questions about climate change that fall outside the confines of the natural sciences, such as implications for politics, governance, economics, security, game theory, and more. By addressing these global topics, the research team hopes to fill in gaps in the existing literature.

The team will focus on solar geoengineering, which is a particular form of climate engineering that aims to reduce the planet’s absorption of solar energy. Of particular interest is one form of solar geoengineering that involves introducing small particles into the upper atmosphere to scatter sunlight back to space. How this may work in conjunction with carbon geoengineering, which focuses on lowering the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is a major element of the team’s research.

The goal of this Initiative is to build a vibrant, interdisciplinary research community at Harvard with sharply divergent positions on geoengineering. The Initiative features several Harvard-based sub-projects, each involving a few different investigators. These sub-projects will explore different dimensions of geoengineering through case studies, experiments, and theoretical modeling. Project-related talks, presentations, and discussion groups will be held at the Weatherhead Center each semester to share research findings. Each sub-project team will publish a peer-reviewed research article, which will be included in a larger edited volume with additional project findings.

Principal Investigator

David Keith

Faculty Associate. Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

Project Manager

Joshua Horton

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School.

See also: Initiatives