'Extraordinary' and 'Highly Controversial': Federal Research of Solar Geoengineering Under NEPA

Charles R. Corbett, “Extraordinary” and “Highly Controversial”: Federal Research of Solar Geoengineering Under NEPA, 115 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 240 (2021), https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1307&context=nulr_online&fbclid=IwAR0kQGReczRbpsuRrn1WgZnh5QI2QwEsULw5i

28 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2020 Last revised: 18 Mar 2021

Date Written: September 21, 2020

Abstract

Congress recently instructed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to investigate stratospheric aerosols, materials that could be injected in the atmosphere as a means of solar climate intervention. This action has been widely interpreted as the first-ever federal research project into solar geoengineering—proposals to slightly “dim the sun” to limit the harms of climate change. This Essay argues that NOAA should use its discretion to conduct a programmatic environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as an initial step in governing this research program. Federal research into solar geoengineering is an extraordinary and highly controversial policy. The agency should carefully consider the environmental, social, and political impacts that may come with this undertaking. Further, the public deserves an opportunity to weigh in on the matter and to be apprised of its potential benefits and risks. NEPA provides a rigorous framework for doing just that.

Keywords: climate change, NEPA, solar geoengineering, NOAA, environmental assessment, public participation

Suggested Citation

Corbett, Charles R., 'Extraordinary' and 'Highly Controversial': Federal Research of Solar Geoengineering Under NEPA (September 21, 2020). Charles R. Corbett, “Extraordinary” and “Highly Controversial”: Federal Research of Solar Geoengineering Under NEPA, 115 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 240 (2021), https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1307&context=nulr_online&fbclid=IwAR0kQGReczRbpsuRrn1WgZnh5QI2QwEsULw5i, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3696942

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