Solar Geoengineering and Democracy

20 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2018 Last revised: 12 Jul 2021

See all articles by Joshua Horton

Joshua Horton

Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA)

Jesse L Reynolds

University of California, Los Angeles School of Law; Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University School of Law

Holly Jean Buck

UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Daniel Callies

Goethe University Frankfurt - Cluster of Excellence Normative Orders

Stefan Schäfer

Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS); Harvard University

David Keith

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Steve Rayner

University of Oxford

Date Written: June 7, 2018

Abstract

Some scientists suggest that it might be possible to reflect a portion of incoming sunlight back into space to reduce climate change and its impacts. Others argue that such solar radiation management (SRM) geoengineering is inherently incompatible with democracy. In this article, we reject this incompatibility argument. First, we counter-argue that technologies such as SRM lack innate political characteristics and predetermined social effects, and that democracy need not be deliberative to serve as a standard for governance.

We then rebut each of the argument’s core claims, countering that:

(1) democratic institutions are sufficiently resilient to manage SRM,

(2) opting out of governance decisions is not a fundamental democratic right,

(3) SRM may not require an undue degree of technocracy, and

(4) its implementation may not concentrate power and promote authoritarianism.

Although we reject the incompatibility argument, we do not argue that SRM is necessarily, or even likely to be, democratic in practice.

Keywords: geoengineering, climate change, democracy, political theory

Suggested Citation

Horton, Joshua and Reynolds, Jesse L and Buck, Holly Jean and Callies, Daniel and Schäfer, Stefan and Keith, David and Rayner, Steve, Solar Geoengineering and Democracy (June 7, 2018). Global Environmental Politics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3135612

Joshua Horton

Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) ( email )

79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Jesse L Reynolds (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University School of Law ( email )

3508 TC Utrecht
Utrecht
Netherlands

Holly Jean Buck

UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability ( email )

Los Angeles, CA
United States

Daniel Callies

Goethe University Frankfurt - Cluster of Excellence Normative Orders ( email )

Germany

Stefan Schäfer

Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) ( email )

Berlinerstrasse 130
Potsdam
Germany

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

David Keith

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Steve Rayner

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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