The Climate Emergency and Solar Geoengineering

64 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2021 Last revised: 11 Apr 2022

Date Written: April 19, 2021


This Article examines the climate emergency and solar geoengineering: proposals to intentionally
alter Earth’s reflectivity to cool the planet. It first defends climate emergency as a concept
and possible mode of doing government—while also warning against its hasty declaration. It
then surveys the science and public language that gives shape to the climate emergency and
examines how climate emergency-necessity frameworks are already interacting with the U.S.
legal system and beyond. Next it reintroduces solar geoengineering as a potential climate emergency response and its research as an emergency measure. It closes by reviewing the legal theory on emergency measures within constitutional democracies and under international law, using those lessons to suggest governance principles for solar geoengineering research and, potentially, its development and deployment.

Keywords: climate change, emergency, solar geoengineering, international law, constitutional law

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Corbett, Charles R., The Climate Emergency and Solar Geoengineering (April 19, 2021). Harvard Environmental Law Review, vol. 46, 197-260 (2022), Available at SSRN:

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