Law and Policy Issues of Unilateral Geoengineering: Moving to a Managed World

15 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2009 Last revised: 18 Jul 2014

See all articles by Gareth T. Davies

Gareth T. Davies

VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 29, 2009


Geoengineering is usually understood to mean the deliberate manipulation of the climate. A number of techniques have been proposed to achieve this, from innovative ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, to the seeding of clouds or the spraying of dust in the upper atmosphere. Three facts make these proposals of importance. Firstly, some of the techniques discussed, it is claimed, could significantly or even entirely offset the effects of human-induced global warming. Secondly, they are in some cases relatively cheap and easy to carry out, even within the budgetary and technical reach of a large private organization or a single small state. Thirdly, the full effects of the techniques are not known, and it is distinctly possible that alongside, or even instead of, causing any reduction in temperature, geoengineering would also cause global or local side-effects that would be undesirable or even catastrophic.

It follows that motivation to experiment is very significant, since there is much to gain. Given the accessibility of the technology, there is a very high chance that geoengineering techniques will be applied, by someone, somewhere. However, there is also much to lose. There is therefore an obvious case for some kind of international regulation. This paper aims to identify and outline some of the practical and conceptual problems that such regulation would face.

Keywords: environmental law, international law, geoengineering, climate change, multilateralism

JEL Classification: K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Davies, Gareth T., Law and Policy Issues of Unilateral Geoengineering: Moving to a Managed World (January 29, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Gareth T. Davies (Contact Author)

VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Law ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam

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