Climate and Geoengineering

Numerous studies suggest that so-called ‘climate engineering’ technologies might need to play a key role in the future. Hardly anybody proposes today such technologies, such as injecting aerosols into the atmosphere ‘to dim the sun’. And yet, the research on such ideas is exploding, and critical scholars of earth system governance cannot ignore these debates. 

My own interest is related to my critical analysis of planetary justice and green colonialism. I am particularly interested in the fact that such technologies carry major risks for developing countries who are often especially vulnerable to, and lack adaptive capacity to deal with, the impacts of such new technologies. In this situation, one would expect that developing countries – especially the least developed countries that are most vulnerable – play a central role in the emerging discourse on climate engineering. And yet, as my research (with Ina Möller) shows, the discussion about whether and how to engage with these technologies is shaped by experts from just a small set of countries in the Global North. Knowledge production around climate engineering is still heavily dominated by the major research institutions in North America and Europe. 

In addition to this focus on North-South imbalances and injustices in the geoengineering debate, I have also worked on analysing these debates in China, and on understanding how ‘the future’ is framed in geoengineering studies. 

At present, I am part of a group of scholars to set up a Netherlands research programme on geoengineering. My own role in this group is to bring in a critical social science perspective and to co-develop the governance dimensions of the research network. If you are interested to join – from within but also from outside the Netherlands – please e-mail me directly. 

Related research includes:

Rich man’s solution: climate engineering discourses and the marginalization of the Global South (open access copy)

Seeding the clouds to reach the sky: Will China’s weather modification practices support the legitimization of climate engineering?

Anticipatory governance of solar geoengineering: conflicting visions of the future and their links to governance proposals (open access article)

© 2020 Frank Biermann