Spotlight story: Hal Agar's experience speaking at the recent UNECE regional forum
Hal Agar, a BSc Environmental Science student, shares his transformative experience speaking at the UNECE regional forum on "Solar Radiation Modification and Youth Perspectives on its Governance" on 30 March.
Hal Agar, currently studying BSc Environmental Science at the University of York, was recently invited to speak at the UNECE regional forum on 'Solar Radiation Modification and Youth Perspectives on its Governance' on 30 March. We asked Hal to share more about this experience.
Tell us a bit about your research project
DICEY (Dialogue in Climate Engineering with Youth) is a research project led by Dr. Lynda Dunlop that focuses on creating evidence-based approaches to online dialogue surrounding climate change interventions. The project involves undergraduate participants aged 18-25 and aims to increase youth capacity to initiate and sustain constructive dialogue on climate interventions between peers, policy-makers, and scientists.
Tell us about your involvement in the UNECE regional forum on 30 March
At the UNECE regional forum, I moderated an online event in collaboration with Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G) on 'Solar Radiation Modification and Youth Perspectives on its Governance.' During the event, I presented my perspective on SRM for 20 minutes and moderated the Q&A session. The event explored the benefits and limitations of SRM technologies and emphasised the need for transparent and participatory governance frameworks to ensure their consistency with international law. It also highlighted the importance of intergovernmental institutions taking responsibility for managing SRM while ensuring youth and the Global South's full participation. Discussions included potential negative environmental impacts, whether SRM could hinder mitigation efforts, and how to include youth voices in governance. The event aimed to raise awareness and provide evidence-based training for youth to take ownership and responsibility for SRM.
What have you learned from this experience?
DICEY and the event marked my first exposure to the geoengineering debate beyond undergraduate teaching. Initially, my understanding of technologies like SRM led me to hold a strong negative view of both geoengineering research and deployment. However, after participating in both events, which featured discussions and strong opposition to SRM, I have learned to keep an open mind despite my undergraduate studies' strong opinions. I now recognise that some researchers are pursuing geoengineering with good justifications and a sensible outlook on the weight of their actions. My position has shifted towards weakly supporting geoengineering research but remaining opposed to deployment.
What are you looking to do in the future?
I am currently focused on the area of existential risk, particularly as it relates to climate change and geoengineering. It centres on events that could permanently and drastically reduce humanity's potential, including the possibility of human extinction. In addition, I am pursuing training as an environmental data scientist, which involves a dissertation using machine learning techniques. Next year, I plan to work with Effective Altruism to develop a thesis that addresses climate x-risk using novel machine learning techniques.
A huge thanks to Hal for speaking to us about his project and the UNECE event. We wish him all the best with his future endeavours!