The Possibility of Climate Manufacturing and the Need for Global Governance
The Global Community Yearbook of International Law & Jurisprudence; Global Trends: Law, Policy & Justice Essays in Honour of Professor Giuliana Ziccardi Capaldo at 563 (Oxford University Press; M. Cherif Bassiouni et al. eds., 2013)
10 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2013 Last revised: 25 Oct 2013
Date Written: September 4, 2013
There has for some time now been an overwhelming scientific consensus that immediate national and international action is necessary to decrease drastically anthropogenic causes of the dangerous warming of the planet caused by the burning of fossil fuels. There is now also a scientific consensus that we are already seeing some of those disastrous consequences, and that failure to make significant changes decades ago means that we will inevitably experience more, and worse, impacts. As a result, not only does mitigation — i.e., reducing greenhouse gas emissions — remain necessary to prevent further warming, but we must also put adaptation measures in place to prepare for the different world we now face as a result of climate change.
However, given global political intransigence and, relatedly, the existence of powerful multinational industries with vested interests in depleting the planet's fossil-fuel resources, there is a well-founded concern that mitigation and adaptation measures will continue to be grossly inadequate to address the planetary emergency that we are facing as a result of global warming. As a result, some governments and private entities have been exploring a "plan B"; namely, to rapidly manufacture a cooler climate.
In this chapter of the special volume of the Global Community Yearbook of International Law and Jurisprudence published in honor of Professor Giuliana Ziccardi Capaldoon, I argue that the method of what I call "climate manufacturing" (commonly known as "geoengineering") that will most likely be implemented is the injection of sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere to increase the amount of sunlight reflected back into space. This particular "solar radiation management" method of climate manufacturing is known to be highly effective, immediately feasible, and affordable. But, it also presents extremely high levels of risk.
As it is clear that none of the current international mechanisms were designed to control manipulation of the planet’s climate, a more specific and comprehensive global governance mechanism is necessary. Unfortunately, in light of the clear and long-standing failure of the global community to address climate change in a meaningful way, the prospects for such global governance in the near future are dim. In light of this unsettling yet realistic prospect, as well as the fact that private entities have significant incentives to explore and implement the injection of sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere, I proffer in this chapter an interim international measure. Specifically, I suggest that the United Nations add "civil justice" body to its "Global Compact" system. At least in the short term, such an entity could serve to shed some light on private attempts or plans to inject sulfates into the atmosphere (or to implement other "climate manufacturing" techniques). As a result, hopefully such an "international civil justice" mechanism would provide the needed impetus for global and national legal controls of climate manufacturing and ensure that, if it is ever employed, it is not done so in a way that will harm the most vulnerable and powerless populations of the world disproportionately, as the climate change we have already set in motion has.
Keywords: climate change, geoengineering, climate change law and policy, global governance, social justice, international law, civil justice, tort law
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