Geoengineering Research Under U.S. Law
Pratt's Energy Law Report, volume 18, number 3 (March 2018), 67-75, ISBN: 978-1-6328-0836-3
14 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 13, 2018
Geoengineering — the deliberate modification of the earth’s climate to offset carbon emissions from human activity — was once the stuff of science fiction. Ideas of warding off the sun’s rays, or pulling greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, are now being discussed not only in academic settings and media, but also in the halls of government. Some think these techniques might save the planet or lend humanity a vital window of opportunity; others consider them a dangerous distraction from a decarbonized energy future. How will we ever find out?
Through research, of course. But how geoengineering research can be conducted consistent with existing laws is highly complex.
The authors first divide the techniques under consideration between solar radiation management (aerosols in the stratosphere, or greater white surfaces below) and carbon dioxide removal (ocean iron fertilization (OIF) and other forms of carbon capture and sequestration). They detail the analysis required for an environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and a variety of other U.S. statutes and common-law doctrines.
Research-specific compliance is urged rather than awaiting the full body of evidence best suited for a programmatic EIS for full deployment. Only by encouraging research will it be possible to make appropriate decisions on whether to deploy geoengineering at the scale and for the duration needed to help combat climate change.
Keywords: geoengineering, solar radiation management, carbon dioxide removal, ocean iron fertilization, OIF, NEPA, EIS
JEL Classification: K32, K13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation