Engineering: Avoiding Pandora's Box through Research and
By Matthias Honegger, Axel Michaelowa and
FNI Climate Policy Perspectives 5
Emissions of greenhouse gases
continue to rise, and emission reduction efforts are increasingly seen as
inadequate to stay below the 2°C threshold agreed internationally, but
countries shy away from shouldering the burden of emissions abatement.
Therefore, in the next decades an increase in meteorological extreme events is
increasingly likely to trigger public pressure to find quick solutions to halt
climate change. Climate engineering (CE), especially Solar Radiation Management
(SRM) proposals, will be attractive in this context.
But SRM could turn
into a Pandora's Box if not managed carefully. A sudden political demand for
implementing CE could end in disaster if pressure leads to premature
deployment. It is vital to establish a solid understanding of CE with all its
indirect effects as well as significant acceptance and thus legitimacy. Since
for many CE options, the risks seem negatively correlated to costs, a global
research coordination effort is needed that is fully transparent and avoids
biases introduced by interest groups. The IPCC would be the right forum to
harness this research. Research should go hand in hand with the development of
new norms and international approaches in monitoring, similar to the case of
nuclear weapons or terrorism.
It is time for climate engineering to
enter the discourse on climate change mitigation - in a research-led,
transparent and conscientiously governed manner.