Accepted paper:

Avoiding geoengineering governance


Oliver Geden (Max Planck Institute for Meteorology)

Paper short abstract:

Policymakers lack incentives to regulate geoengineering since political risk considerations usually outplay policy risk assessments. The paper will discuss options on how the research community could better deal with the political reluctance to debate geoengineering governance seriously.

Paper long abstract:

With highly ambitious temperature targets included in the Paris Agreement, many climate researchers expect the beginning of a long-awaited, broader policy debate on different geoengineering techniques, including governance mechanisms. But this view wrongly assumes consistency between talk, decisions and actions. Instead, policymakers’ and high-level decision makers’ main focus is on proposing attractive solutions and connecting them with convenient problem definitions (‘solutions chasing problems’). This helps to explain the politics of geoengineering governance, where political risk considerations outplay policy risk assessments and where policymakers lack incentives to regulate carbon dioxide removal or even solar radiation management, since most techniques (and the scale of deployment needed) look highly unpopular and not easy to defend publicly. Since 2007, during the IPCC’s fifth assessment cycle, we have observed a ‘co-production of irresponsibility’. On the one hand, climate economists silently included massive amounts of carbon removal into their mitigation scenarios to avoid overshooting carbon budgets. On the other, policymakers have been satisfied with the core message that meeting ambitious temperature targets is still feasible, while simply ignoring the fine print. After Paris, and at the beginning of the IPCC’s sixth assessment cycle, it has become clear that it will be significantly harder for policymakers to avoid dealing with geoengineering, but persistent incentives for non-governance should not be underestimated. The paper will discuss future options on how the research community could deal with the political reluctance to discuss geoengineering, and how a political climate that allows a serious debate on geoengineering governance might emerge.

panel T133
Tackling climate change by other means: opening up geoengineering governance