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YL Blog #40 – Fostering dialogue on climate intervention: Insights from the Anticipating Future Debates Conference

The stark reality arises as a sobering reminder: those bearing the brunt of the climate crisis are alarmingly absent, from the very deliberations that shape their fate. By virtue of my identity and lived experiences, I find myself de facto connected to and impacted by the concerns of those most affected by these issues. While I acknowledge the privilege of such inclusion, it also reinforces the importance of further educating myself and actively working towards fostering greater consideration and representation in these critical areas. However, it is important to emphasize that I, as a young professional on a journey of growth and learning, am striving to become better informed and make meaningful contributions in addressing these complex and intertwined challenges of human security and climate intervention in a meaningful and impactful way.

In June 2022, I attended the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Global Nuclear Effects Conference in Washington, D.C., and my life and professional aspirations have changed significantly since then. At the time, the NTI conference offered me a unique opportunity to advocate for the humanitarian concerns associated with nuclear North Korea on a global stage. Simultaneously, my participation in the conference provided me with a deeper comprehension of the dire climate ramifications that a nuclear winter could inflict worldwide. Nevertheless, there is a realization that a much more imminent and pressing reality exists—the ongoing climate disasters unfolding in countries that are equally alarming and yet fail to receive the necessary attention they desperately require. Recognizing the urgency of addressing these overlooked climate disasters, it became imperative for me to participate in the “Anticipating Future Debates on Climate Intervention” conference held in March 2023 at the Center for Global Security Research, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The opportunity provided by the Pacific Forum’s Young Leaders Program would turn out to be a crucial platform for engaging in discussions on climate interventions and exploring potential benefits, risks, and unknowns of climate intervention strategies. The conference brought together experts from various fields to engage in discussions surrounding climate intervention and engineering strategies, their implications, and the evolving dialogue and concerns associated with them. The two-day conference served as a valuable opportunity to deepen my comprehension of the subject, actively engage in the dialogue, and explore the critical intersection between climate (technology) research, human security, and policy.

One of the key themes that emerged from the conference was the power dynamics between stakeholders and the representation, or lack thereof, of perspectives from the global South. As climate intervention strategies are being evaluated and considered as potential responses to emerging climatic and geopolitical risks, questions arise regarding the redistribution of power, responsibilities, and decision-making authority among countries. Panel 1, in particular, delved into the ongoing research on climate interventions, explored the associated debates and controversies, and raised important questions about the inclusion of intervention strategies in global efforts to mitigate climate change. This discussion was eye-opening and groundbreaking for me, as it shed light on the broader context and implications of this dialogue, especially concerning security implications in the Americas and the disproportionate impact on populations in the global South.

In addition to the broader discussions, I found the in-depth exploration of technological specifics surrounding climate interventions, such as carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and solar geoengineering, to be fascinating. The presentation on cloud seeding research, which involves the deliberate modification of clouds to enhance precipitation, was particularly relevant to me. Given the ongoing risk of global droughts, including those affecting countries like Uzbekistan (and Turkmenistan), where I recently had the privilege to visit on a research trip with the Russia and Eurasia Program at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, it is crucial to consider the potential consequences and ongoing research in this area. ‘

However, understanding the technological aspects alone is insufficient when examining the development and application of these strategies beyond the realm of experts and informed policymakers. It is equally important to consider the social, legal, and domestic/international dimensions and the establishment of standards as these technologies evolve, taking into account their geopolitical implications.

While the conference raised numerous concerns regarding the science, policymaking, and education surrounding climate interventions, I remain optimistic about the collective efforts of individuals in this field and the growing inclusivity in these dialogues, though further progress is needed. The participation of more youth and people of color (POC) is crucial, particularly for communities historically excluded from these conversations, such as those in disadvantaged and global South regions. These discussions hold immense importance, especially for those lacking the tools, influence, and education to participate fully in the decision-making processes.

Through my journey in the humanitarian space, particularly in working with human rights in North Korea, and my subsequent exploration of North Korean nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, I have become increasingly fascinated by the intersection of technology application in nuclear science and climate-related challenges. While these concerns have not always occupied the forefront of my mind, I recognize their significance and the need for a broader public dialogue beyond climate intervention considerations. Climate change has become a prominent topic of discussion in recent years, primarily among leaders, researchers, and scientists. Therefore, I felt privileged to have the opportunity to learn from and engage with professionals at the forefront of this discussion during the conference, enabling me to enhance my own understanding and contribute to the ongoing dialogue. Overall, this conference has been an indispensable and transformative experience in my early professional career, contributing to my personal and academic growth. It reinforces my commitment to working within the realm of U.S. energy policy and advocating for the integration of diverse perspectives. Recognizing the significance of these considerations for international order and global stability, I am determined to contribute to the discourse surrounding climate interventions and technological advancements in the energy sector. With optimism, I look forward to further contributing to policymaking and initiatives that address the challenges discussed in conferences like this one, leveraging technological advancements and research frontiers to create a brighter and more equitable future for all.

Maria Del Carmen Corte ([email protected]) is a Satellite Imagery Analysis Associate at The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

Disclaimer: All opinions in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent any organization.