There is no comprehensive, multilateral governance of technology to temporarily cool the planet via solar engineering. Scientists have been talking about this technology for five decades, but there has been insufficient policy discussion by governments and non-state actors. This issue is too important to be left to scientists alone.
Big questions: Some argue that ignoring technologies that might lower temperatures would be irresponsible. But the potential benefits of solar engineering claimed by others come with huge challenges and risks – known and unknown. Does research divert attention from what we know works: eliminating emissions and adapting to climate impacts? Would unequal impacts further disadvantage the poorest? Is humanity capable of intentionally engineering such a complex, carefully balanced system? On whose behalf? What global governance would be needed to monitor such a technology?
The bottom line: We face a risky future, and governance is essential to reduce those risks.
Other voices in the conversation:
- David Dana, legal scholar, Northwestern University: Talking about geoengineering is distracting
- Jane Long, energy and climate scientist: It's time to investigate geoengineering technologies
- David Keith, climate and energy researcher, Harvard University: Solar geoengineering needs at least another decade of research
- Matthew Watson, geoengineering researcher, University of Bristol: We need to be sure the geoengineering cure isn't worse than the disease