Using Legal Principles to Guide Geoengineering Deployment

52 Pages Posted: 2 May 2015 Last revised: 26 Jul 2016

See all articles by Anthony Chavez

Anthony Chavez

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law

Date Written: March 21, 2016


Climate change will be unavoidable, long-lasting, and potentially catastrophic. While mitigation is critical, it can no longer enable us to avoid many of the consequences of climate change. Not surprisingly, many nations and their scientists are beginning to study the feasibility of engineering the climate. Indeed, earlier this year the United States’ National Research Council concluded that the likelihood that society will need to deploy some form of geoengineering is becoming increasingly likely. Nevertheless, no one has begun determining what principles society should apply when deciding whether to deploy geoengineering.

This article identifies and reviews legal concepts that can inform this decision. Then, it determines which legal principles should be used and which can be discarded. Next, it applies decision-making theories to determine the best approach to utilize these principles. With this background, it proposes a prioritization of the principles – cost-benefit analysis, consideration of alternatives, intergenerational equity, regional equity, reversibility of consequences, and containment of effects. Finally, it demonstrates the value of the principles by applying them to some of the most promising climate engineering technologies to determine, based upon present information, which would be the most acceptable to deploy.

Keywords: Climate Change, geoengineering, engineering technologies, environmental policy

JEL Classification: K10, K32

Suggested Citation

Chavez, Anthony, Using Legal Principles to Guide Geoengineering Deployment (March 21, 2016). 24 N.Y.U. Environmental Law Journal 59 (2016), Available at SSRN: or

Anthony Chavez (Contact Author)

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law ( email )

Nunn Hall
Highland Heights, KY 41099
United States

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