Section I. The Threatening Catastrophe: Responding Now

Track 2: The Technological Response: Geo-Engineering
(Kevin O’Brien and Forrest Cingerman)



The climate is changing and will continue to change because of the unintended consequences of industrial technologies. In response, some scientists and engineers are now designing plans for large-scale technologies to make further, more intentional changes. Proposals include the creation of artificial clouds to reflect more of the sun’s light back into space, fertilizing the ocean to create algae blooms to absorb more CO2, and many more. Discussions of the political and philosophical implications of such proposals are just beginning: does such adaptation to a changing climate undermine efforts to reduce consumption and pollution? Do such alterations of the atmosphere exacerbate the anthropocentric hubris that created the problem of climate change in the first place? What institution has the authority and the power to decide upon, balance the risks of, and monitor such global-scale interventions in the atmosphere? This track will consider such questions and particularly emphasize the importance of religious institutions and scholars of religion to their continued consideration.

Suggested Readings

Wil Burns & Andrew Strauss, eds., Climate Change Geoengineering: Philosophical Perspectives, Legal Issues, and Governance Frameworks.  (New York: Cambridge, 2013).

Forrest Clingerman & Kevin O’Brien, “Playing God: Religion in the Geoengineering Debate” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, May/June 2014.

David Keith, A Case for Climate Engineering. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013).

Clive Hamilton, Earth Masters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014).

CJ Preston, ed. Engineering the Climate: The Ethics of Solar Radiation Management. (New York: Lexington Books, 2013).

Confirmed Participants:

  • Thomas Bruhn: Project Scientist, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies
  • Wil Burns: Co-Executive Director, Washington Climate Geoengineering Consortium

  • Forrest Clingerman: Associate Professor of Religion, Ohio Northern University

  • Sarah Fredericks: Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy, University of North Texas

  • Laura Hartman: Associate Professor of Religion, Augustana College

  • Willis Jenkins: Associate Professor of Religion, Ethics, and the Environment, University of Virginia

  • Kevin J. O’Brien: Associate Professor of Religion, Pacific Lutheran University

  • Dane Scott: Director of the Mansfield Ethics and Public Affairs Program & Associate Professor of Ethics, University of Montana

  • Stefan Skrimshire: Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies, University of Leeds

  • Toby Svoboda: Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Fairfield University

  • Marit Trelstad: Associate Professor of Religion, Pacific Lutheran University



SESSION 1: Friday, June 5, 2-3.30 pm                     Introductions

            Self-introductions from all participants

            Introductions to Climate Engineering (Tom Bruhn & Toby Svoboda)


SESSION 2: Friday, June 5, 4-5.30 pm                     Christian Ethical Responses to Climate Engineering

           2 pre-read papers (Laura Hartman & Kevin O’Brien – 10 minute summary each)

            Respondent (Will Burns, 15 minutes)

            Discussion (55 minutes)


SESSION 3: Saturday, June 6, 11 am -12.30 pm Philosophical Responses to Climate Engineering

            2 pre-read papers (Dane Scott & Toby Svoboda)

            Respondent (Marit Trelstad, 15 minutes)

            Discussion (55 minutes


SESSION 4: Saturday, June 6, 2-3.30 pm     Theological Responses to Climate Engineering

            2 pre-read papers (Sarah Fredericks & Forrest)

            Respondent (Laura Hartman, 15 minutes)

            Discussion (55 minutes)


SESSION 5: Saturday, June 6, 4-5.30 pm     Working Session

            Time for informal collaborations, discussions, or rest


SESSION 6: Sunday, June 7, 11– 12.30 pm Policy, Communication, and Climate Engineering

            2 papers delivered (Tom Bruhn & Wil Burns, 30 minutes each)

            Open discussion (30 minutes)


SESSION 7: Sunday, June 7, 2-3.30 pm       Discussion Session

            Discussion of pre-read papers from those not present

            Response to and discussion of Skrimshire paper (Forrest Clingerman)

            Response to and discussion of Jenkins paper (Kevin O’Brien)


SESSION 8: Sunday, June 7, 4 – 5.30 pm     Concluding Thoughts & Work Ahead

            Reflective response to the previous sessions (Marit Trelstad, 20 min)

            Facilitated discussion (60 minutes)



Papers will be edited in response to comments and expanded in light of our discussions, and then will be published in an edited volume tentatively entitled Calming the Storm: Theological and Ethical Perspectives on Climate Engineering