The success of the Paris Agreement on climate change may rely on the extensive deployment of controversial ideas for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. This panel examines the politics of these large-scale 'negative emissions' technologies and the roles for STS scholars in studying them.
The Paris Agreement on climate change has set out global commitments to keeping global warming well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and to aim for limiting the rise to 1.5°C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that meeting these targets is possible - but nearly all of their scenarios rely on the extensive deployment of large-scale technologies that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere but do not currently exist (as complete socio-technical systems). Critics have argued that assumptions about when such 'negative emissions' technologies might be ready and how they might be deployed at an impactful scale are desperately optimistic. Much like their taxonomic cousins, geoengineering by reflecting sunlight back into space, negative emissions ideas are also deeply controversial, potentially propping up carbon capitalism, making sweeping changes to land-use and posing significant environmental risks. This panel seeks to explore the politics of these prospective negative emissions technologies and what they imply for our changing relationship with nature in the age of the Anthropocene. We ask: what political imaginaries and interests are co-produced with negative emissions ideas in climate models, experiments and policies? How might research, development and deployment of carbon removal be governed responsibly where power relations and socio-technical systems are co-evolving? What are the implications for power, knowledge and politics of (discursive) decoupling of carbon removal from other forms of geoengineering? How does negative emissions politics compare to other technoscientific politics? What should our roles as STS scholars be when engaging with negative emissions?