Programme

(T133)
Tackling climate change by other means: opening up geoengineering governance
Location 112b
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 14:00
Sessions 2

Convenor

  • Rob Bellamy (University of Oxford) email

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Short Abstract

Geoengineering is seen as a way to cut through diplomatic barriers that impede and weaken progress on tackling climate change. This session examines the geoengineering techno-fix as 'politics by other means', seeking to explicate dilemmas of control and framings by diverse collectives.

Long Abstract

The Paris Agreement has set out global commitments to keep the world's average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to strive for limiting the increase to 1.5°C. Climate modelling research has shown that these ambitions are not physically possible without deploying geoengineering technologies: deliberate large-scale interventions in the Earth's climate system for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere or reflecting sunlight away from the Earth. Geoengineering is seen by many as a way to cut through the diplomatic barriers that impede and weaken progress through international negotiations. Yet, as science and technology studies scholars have observed, this tackling climate change by other, technological means, is only 'politics by other means'. Indeed, the British Royal Society argued that the acceptability of these proposals will be determined as much by social, political, legal, and ethical issues as by scientific and technical factors. This session brings together scholars working to explicate framings and foresight of geoengineering by diverse collectives, dilemmas of technology control, and governance and regulatory choices. Papers will address a range of pressing questions: what does it mean to take responsibility for the world's climate? How can scientists take better care of the futures they help create? How do experts and publics evaluate and make sense of geoengineering? What elements are necessary for conducting responsible geoengineering research and experimentation? How can we better anticipate the shifting governance needs of speculative sociotechnical systems?

SESSIONS: 5/4

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Disruptive Discourse: Negotiating the Boundaries of Geoengineering Research

Author: Steve Rayner (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores competing framings of geoengineering and the boundary work involved in redefining technological proposals to include or exclude them from any emerging governance framework. The paper explores the implications of this definitional politics for geoengineering research and policy.

Long Abstract

Disruptive Discourse explores the competing framings of "geoengineering" and the boundary work involved in redefining a range of highly heterogeneous technological imaginaries to include or exclude them from any emerging governance framework for research and development. The very idea of containing such heterogeneity in a single category of geoengineering is contested, as is what specific technologies, if any, should count as geoengineering as distinct from mitigation and adaptation. Advocates of some technological practices seek to avoid the geoengineering label out of concern that they will be subject to further regulation, while others lobby for inclusion as a perceived route to unlock R&D funding. The paper explores the origins, dynamics and implications of this definitional politics for geoengineering research and climate policy and summarizes a bottom-up approach to building a responsible framework for research governance. It concludes by highlighting how the prospect of geoengineering is potentially disruptive to well-established political alignments in climate policy discourse and asks not only what geoengineering can do for the climate but also what the climate geoengineering governance discourse can do for society.

The historical evolution and political dimensions of geoengineering terminology

Author: Stefan Schäfer (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies)  email

Short Abstract

I present a historical review of the evolution of geoengineering terminology and associated concepts, followed by an analysis of the political dimensions of this history and their manifestation in the contemporary geoengineering discourse.

Long Abstract

In recent years, terminology has become an increasingly contested matter in the geoengineering discourse. While several suggestions for umbrella terms that cover the range of geoengineering proposals exist - from the most widely used duo of "geoengineering" and "climate engineering" to lesser-used terms such as "climate intervention", "climate remediation", or "climate management" - the most controversial debate currently concerns whether or not these umbrella terms should be disaggregated into the individual proposals that form their constituent parts. I trace the historical evolution of geoengineering terminology and associated concepts through an analysis of formative publications, including policy documents, assessment reports, and scientific publications. I then argue that the historical evolution and contemporary configuration of geoengineering terminology have politically active dimensions, and that increasing controversy over terminology is the result of underlying political alignments. Spelling out the political dimensions of geoengineering terminology thus plays an important role in developing an understanding of what lies at the core of contemporary controversy over geoengineering. An appreciation of the political dimensions of terminology can also assist in developing deeper understandings in other science and technology debates, such as those on genetic engineering and nanotechnology, and can assist in situating geoengineering vis-à-vis them.

Scenarios, Imaginaries, and SRM Governance

Author: Sean Low (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies)  email

Short Abstract

This project applied scenarios as ‘designed imaginaries’ to methodologically ground discussions of future-oriented challenges for SRM governance, and to emphasize the potential for constructive engagement with imaginaries in exploring and structuring research, governance, and discourse.

Long Abstract

Since SRM technologies do not yet exist and capacities to model their impacts are limited, governance proposals are implicitly designed not around realities, but possibilities- baskets of risk and benefit that are often components of sociotechnical imaginaries. The project Solar Radiation Management: Foresight for Governance (SRM4G) aimed to make discussion of such imaginaries explicit, and to nudge the mode of thinking about the future of an engineered climate from predictive to anticipatory. Leveraging the participation of scholars and practitioners heavily engaged in early conversations on SRM governance, SRM4G applied scenario construction to generate a set of alternative futures, each exercising different influences on the need for - and challenges associated with - development of SRM technologies. The scenarios then provided the context for the design of systems of governance with the capacity and legitimacy to respond to those challenges, and for the evaluation of the advantages and drawbacks of different options against a wide range of imaginary but plausible futures. In doing so, SRM4G sought to initiate a conversation within the SRM research community on the capacity of foresight approaches to highlight how central sociotechnical imaginaries are to discussions of SRM's risks and benefits, to examine and challenge the assumptions embedded in conceptualizing SRM's aims, development, and governance, and to discuss the capacity of (or the need for) governance options to adapt to a wide range of possibilities.

The Security Implications of Geoengineering

Authors: Paul Nightingale (University of Sussex)  email
Rose Cairns (University of Sussex)  email

Short Abstract

Geoengineering raises indirect security concerns that have received limited attention. The military, rather than scientists, may drive SRM, and it may require a significant and costly security infrastructure to prevent disruption and manage blame, creating unforeseen governance problems.

Long Abstract

The prospect of geoengineering in response to climate change raises a number of security concerns that have traditionally been understood within a standard geo-political framing of security. This relates to their direct application in inter-State warfare or to a securitisation of climate change. While direct military applications are unrealistic, indirect security implications are potentially significant. Current capability, security threats and international law loopholes suggest the military, rather than scientists would undertake SRM. SRM activity would be covered by Critical National Infrastructure policies, which would necessitate a significant level of secondary security infrastructure to protect them. Concerns about termination effects, the need to impose international policy agreement (given the ability of 'Rogue States' to disrupt SRM and existing difficulties in producing global agreement on climate policy), and a world of extreme weather events, where weather is engineered and hence blameworthy rather than natural, suggest these cost may well be large. Evidence on how blame is attributed suggest blame for extreme weather events may be directed towards more technologically advanced nations, (such as the USA) even if they are not engaged in geoengineering. From a security perspective SRM may well end up being very costly, and difficult to govern. These secondary security concerns are of a sufficient magnitude to suggest that questions can be raised about the viability of geoengineering (SRM) as a policy option.

Lay people's sense making of climate engineering: a cross-country focus group study

Authors: Victoria Wibeck (Department of Thematic Studies - Environmental Change)  email
Anders Hansson (Linköping University)  email

Short Abstract

The study is based on results from a cross-country study of how lay people make sense of climate engineering. We have conducted 23 focus groups in Japan, New Zealand, USA and Sweden with 136 participants and analyze e.g. climate emergency arguments, risks, trust, agency and governance.

Long Abstract

This paper presents preliminary results from a cross-country study of how lay people make sense of climate engineering, i.e. controversial proposals for large-scale, deliberate manipulation of the Earth's climate by technologies for sunlight reflection or carbon dioxide removal from the air.

In contrast to earlier focus group studies, which have mostly focused on single countries, this paper presents preliminary results from an ongoing study, where we conducted focus group interviews among lay people in four geographically and culturally diverse countries: Japan, New Zealand, the USA and Sweden. Focus group methodology has proved fruitful for analyzing not only what participants think about different topics, but also how they make sense of unfamiliar, controversial or complex issues. As such, focus groups generate data well suited for sense-making analysis. In total we conducted 23 focus groups with altogether 136 participants. To our knowledge, this is to date the largest focus group study on geoengineering.

The paper will discuss varieties and commonalities in sense-making across the focus groups, with regard to e.g. climate emergency arguments, risks, possibilities, trust, agency and governance. We will pay particular attention to sense-making strategies, such as the use of analogies, metaphors and narratives. This analysis will contribute to the STS literature on public engagement with climate engineering, meaning making processes concerning novel technologies and the relation between human, society and nature.

The paper is co-authored by A. Hansson, V. Wibeck, J. Anshelm, L. Dilling, R. Hauser, P. Feetham and S. Asayama.

Is Solar Radiation Management a Governable Object? And what does this reframing imply for research funders?

Authors: Phil Macnaghten (Wageningen University)  email
Bronislaw Szerszynski (Lancaster University)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper I examine the question as to whether SRM is a governable object. By this I ask how we can understand what governance arrangements would need to be put in place for SRM to function as planned, and the plausibility of these being realized in the real world.

Long Abstract

In this paper I examine the question as to whether SRM is a governable object. By this I ask how we can understand what governance arrangements would need to be put in place for SRM to function as planned, and the plausibility of these being realized in the real world. There are two variants on this question: whether SRM deployment would work as predicted by current models and proposed fieldtrials (scenario A) or whether it would not (scenario B). My argument is that the debate on governance, and the accompanying debate on social and ethical impacts, has proceeded (largely) by presuming the reliability of the models and the efficacy of proposed fieldtrials (following scenario A): how can international agreement over the 'ideal' global climate be reached, who would be the winners and losers, how they can be compensated, who should decide and on the basis of what criteria, and so on. But if SRM deployment creates unforeseen impacts, if there are inevitable shocks and surprises that had not been predicted in advance by models or fieldtrials (scenario B), if in addition it is subject to unstable and plural framing and goals, what additional challenges would this imply for governance.

A sociotechnical framework for governing geoengineering

Author: Rob Bellamy (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

Proposed ways of governing geoengineering have most often been supported by narrowly framed and unreflexive appraisals. This paper explores the implications of a Deliberative Mapping project that, unlike other principles, have emerged from an extensive process of reflection and reflexivity.

Long Abstract

Proposed ways of governing climate geoengineering have most often been supported by narrowly framed and unreflexive appraisals and processes. Together with boundary work carried out by other academics and learned societies, these principles have served to legitimize geoengineering research as an object of governance. In doing so, they bypass 'technologies of humility' that would see broad participation in their very definition and implicitly reject one critical alternative pathway: that research not be undertaken at all. This paper explores the governance implications of a Deliberative Mapping project that, unlike other governance principles, have emerged from an extensive process of reflection and reflexivity. In turn, the project has made significant advances in addressing the current deficit of responsibly defined criteria for shaping governance propositions. Three such propositions are offered. The first is that reflexive foresight of the imagined futures in which geoengineering proposals might reside is required. The second is that the performance and acceptance of geoengineering proposals should be decided in terms of robustness, not optimality. The third is that geoengineering proposals should be satisfactorily 'opened up' before they can be considered legitimate objects of governance. The implications and challenges for responsibly governing specific geoengineering proposals are then discussed. Taken together, the propositions in this paper offer a sociotechnical framework not simply for governing geoengineering but for governing responses to climate change at large.

Developing a Code of Conduct for Geoengineering Research

Author: Anna-Maria Hubert (University of Calgary )  email

Short Abstract

Geoengineering raises the long-term prospect of earth systems management with an immediate need for anticipatory, reflexive and transparent oversight of research. Drawing upon the insights of legal scholars and other disciplines, it discusses the possible elements for a code of conduct for such research.

Long Abstract

The recent Paris Agreement on climate change sets ambitious aims to limit the global average temperature increase to "well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels." Scientific advances and technological innovation will be critical in order to achieve rapid emissions reductions towards reaching climate objectives. However, geoengineering proposals stand apart as some of the most "radical solutions" in the spectrum of proposed strategies. Geoengineering, if pursued in any form on a large scale, raises the long-term prospect of global environmental management at the earth systems level together with a prospective immediate need for anticipatory, reflexive and transparent oversight of research related to these controversial, emerging technologies. International law is largely silent on the question of how geoengineering research should be governed or regulated. While the law supplies relevant general principles and rules, novel arrangements will be required to address the specific challenges and uncertainties raised by geoengineering research, particularly experimental interventions in the open environment. The Royal Society has recommended the development of "a code of practice for geoengineering research" that will "provide recommendations to the international scientific community for a voluntary research governance framework." This paper outlines the rationale, merits and drawbacks of such an approach. Drawing upon the insights of legal scholars and other disciplines on this topic, it discusses the possible content and form of such an instrument, which could serve as an important gap-filling measure, leading to more robust and binding forms of regulation of geoengineering in the future.

Avoiding geoengineering governance

Author: Oliver Geden (Max Planck Institute for Meteorology)  email

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.

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.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.