Geoengineering and Climate Management: From Marginality to Inevitablity
39 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2012
Date Written: December 14, 2010
In 1998, when I wrote the first law review article advocating Geoengineering as a climate change mitigation strategy, Geoengineering was both unknown and unpopular. Twelve years later, the political economy of Geoengineering – or as I prefer to call it, Climate Management (CM) – has shifted, precisely because the conditions I outlined in 1998 have stayed so strikingly the same. Then, I argued that the lack of political will, absence, complexity, and sheer expense of climate change mitigation made meaningful preventive measures, i.e. cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, extremely difficult to undertake. After a decade of obfuscation and misinformation by powerful political actors, the case seems stronger than ever.
Today, while CM remains at the margins of our popular political discourse, there has been an explosion of scientific and policy analyses. Solar Radiation Management (SRM: increasing the concentration of sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere) and Ocean Iron Fertilization (OIF: seeding gigantic phytoplankton carbon sinks in the oceans by fertilizing them with iron) have both been explored and advanced by credible scientists, scholars, and even entrepreneurs. Additionally, CM has been tentatively explored by conservative think-tanks and pundits – to the horror of environmentalists.
Yet the mere fact that conservatives support Geoengineering should not, in itself, cause liberals and greens to oppose it. Supporting CM should give any environmentalist pause, both because of its riskiness and because so many of our political foes support it. But CM is a climate change strategy that, unlike regulation, might actually stand a chance of becoming reality. It is the only approach to climate change that can act as a compromise between liberals and libertarians, greens and browns. As climate change becomes ineluctable, geoengineeering becomes inevitable.
Keywords: climate change, greenhouse effect, geoengineering, Newt Gingrich, Paul Crutzen, climate management, international law, environmental law
JEL Classification: K32, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation