Geoengineering

Status: Concluded
In progress from 01-08-2011 to 01-11-2012
Project leaders: Keywords: Environment, Environmental technology, Ethics, Expert-based, Governance, Risk

Geoengineering (or climate engineering) is a general term for deliberate large-scale interventions in (bio-)geochemical processes of the Earth in order to counteract a possible global warming. In addition to efforts made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation strategies) and to adapt to the climate change (adaptation strategies), proponents propagate geoengineering interventions as a third complementary or alternative climate protection strategy or as one that is to be applied in case of an emergency.

The proposed concepts can be divided in two large groups: On the one hand, the idea is to influence the global radiation budget (Solar Radiation Management, SRM) in such a way that either less solar radiation strikes the Earth or that a larger part of the impinging radiation is reflected. On the other hand, interventions in the CO2 cycle (Carbon Dioxide Removal, CDR) are conceivable in order to decrease the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide and thus to mitigate the greenhouse effect.

An intervention in global cycles which determine our climate will necessarily involve profound impacts and might entail long-term consequences for ecological and socio-economic systems. Up to now, geoengineering concepts have been discussed focusing mainly on technology and natural sciences (feasibility, climatic impact, environmental risks and consequences etc.), whereas less attention has been paid to aspects regarding ethics, socio-economics, (international) law, politics etc. In view of profound and possibly unintended consequences, several questions of social relevance arise which have to be answered before concretely implementing these techniques.

Science has only just started to deal with these and other questions so that there is still a considerable lack of knowledge. However, these issues have already been the subject of first political debates (e.g. in a series of hearings in the British Parliament as well as in the US Congress since autumn 2009), because the political pressure to decide is rising tangibly. Against this background, TAB has been commissioned by the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment of the German Bundestag to carry out a TA project with regard to the topic of »Geoengineering«. On the one hand, the objective of the TAB project is to give a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge with regard to technological and natural scientific aspects of the different geoengineering concepts proposed. On the other hand, the objective is to discuss the facets of these concepts in terms of (international) law, ethics, socio-economics and politics.

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