Avoiding Moonraker: Averting Unilateral Geoengineering Efforts

39 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2021 Last revised: 8 Jul 2022

See all articles by Antonia Eliason

Antonia Eliason

University of Mississippi School of Law

Date Written: March 24, 2021


Geoengineering has gradually moved from the realm of forbidden technology to a real possibility for addressing the increasingly devastating effects of climate change. Despite many concerns regarding the effects of geoengineering on the planet as a whole, absent drastic action from the global community to reduce emissions, which does not currently seem likely, its deployment seems inevitable in the near future.

This article focuses on solar radiation management (SRM), particularly on upper atmosphere and space-based mechanisms. There are four main risks that must be evaluated in this area: (1) the risk of geoengineering, (2) the risk of unilateral state action, (3) the risk of unilateral private action, and (4) the risk of doing nothing. The article posits that our legal system is poorly designed for addressing these risks, since it focuses on ex post actions rather than providing ex ante measures to adequately evaluate and minimize the risks. Unilateral actions by individual states or by private actors cannot be adequately addressed by ex post legal measures, such as liability regimes. There is a need for robust regulatory mechanisms at an international level to mitigate the negative consequences that unilateral action would inevitably give rise to. Even with such regulatory mechanisms, however, the significance of the harm caused by global temperature increases is such that it may outweigh any potential negative consequences to states who are faced with the choice between the survival of their people or adherence to international legal standards.

Keywords: Geoengineering, climate change, space law, solar radiation management, environmental law

Suggested Citation

Eliason, Antonia, Avoiding Moonraker: Averting Unilateral Geoengineering Efforts (March 24, 2021). University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, Vol. 43, 2021, U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2022-05, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3811361 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3811361

Antonia Eliason (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi School of Law ( email )

Lamar Law Center
P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38677
United States

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