The Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies

Sep 9, 2011   //   by Administrator   //   Pivot Points in the Environment


The Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies was structured to focus explicitly on facilitating international standards to reduce risk associated with research. The Climate Response Fund worked to produce this conference under advice of Dr. Paul Berg  (Nobel Prize Winner), who successfully implemented the historic Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA Technologies.  That conference proposed the rules and guidelines in place for RDNA science.  The 2010 Asilomar Conference was patterned specifically after the successful 1974 conference, only adding new additional elements to address the changing times and dramatically different forms of public communications.


Dr. Paul Berg had helped anticipate the growing friction that would predictably take place leading up to the conference.  And, it did! The conference was not advocating any one technique, and certainly not advocating the deployment of the technologies.  It was clearly and specifically looking to building consensus guidelines to keep the studies of this science safe. Yet select activist groups and a few scientists who were already vested in intellectual property in geoengineering, protested against collaborative deliberations for guidelines and principles for safety that this field of science might be required to meet.


The first evening of the conference was magical. The tone had changed. The Scientific Organizing Committee had done an absolutely tremendous job in setting the expectations and character for the conference. (Please see list of scientific organizing committee and their short bios) The speakers pointed to historical parallels in which global collaborative considerations were successful. When participants approached the microphone to speak, each acknowledged their commitment to the goal of setting guidelines and their willingness to work together. There was professional respect and… a willingness to learn.

The next days were long, intense and at points, grueling. There were real, and sometimes heated debates. Different perspectives were clear, but the collaborative and respectful tone rose above the differences.

Through the conference, the various fields of climate intervention science were reviewed. During these discussions, the scientists heard different perspectives from economists, environmentalists, social scientists and others. There was great sensitivity to our shared future in the evolution of these discussions.

Ultimately, there was one word that resonated from these leaders in their field, environmentalists, economists, historians, policy makers and more:  The word was  Humility … and that perspective changed the path of the conference. The summary statement of the conference also captured this sentiment.

We continue to believe the most important element that came from the conference was the collaboration of the different disciplines. The groups had historically been very confrontational – and had demonstrated this leading up to the conference.  During the conference, there was a transformation. Collectively the group demonstrated a willingness to “hear the other side” and more importantly, really listen.  We are confident that this conference was an awakening for everyone.

This conference was a historic event.  The validation of this effort is demonstrated by the incredible list of leaders among the conference participants. (Link to conference participants)  The world’s leaders in this field voted with their time, traveling from across the nation and around the world to this historic site. This was the first such global conference to set the safety standards and risk management protocols for climate intervention technologies.  This conference launched an international scientific movement for reasoned scientific controls, enabling the world to carefully explore the science that may be needed to sustain a climate conducive to human civilization.