Publication: Implementation of Geoengineering Options

For readers of this blog who include a geoengineering module in their courses, or make presentations on geoengineering, an interesting brief piece is Carlin, Implementation and Utilization of Geoengineering for Global Climate Change Control, 7 Sustainable Development Law & Policy 56-58 (2007). Carlin is a full-throated supporter of climate geoengineering, and has written extensively in this field, including a longer piece with similar themes, Carlin, Global climate change control: Is there a better strategy than reducing greenhouse gas emissions?, 155 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1401-1497 (2007).

Carlin’s piece focuses on governance issues associated with research and development in this field, as well as potential deployment of geoengineering systems. Among the take-aways from the piece:

  1. A critical component of any geoengineering scheme’s implementation would be political legitimization of the approach, i.e. “[p]eople and governments are likely to want some assurance that their interests are being heard and taken into account by an organization that would be charged with carrying out such projects;”
  2. Any geoengineering system put in place needs an organization capability to make mid-course corrections should new information come available;
  3. The phases of a geoengineering program would include a careful laboratory investigation, subscale real world experiments, leading to development of a detailed plan for final implementation; efforts to gain acceptance of the plan by legitimizing organizations; plan implementation, maintenance of the system;
  4. A successful program would require limitation (or elimination of the possibility ) of legal liabilities that might occur from deployment;
  5. While the quickest, simplest, and most-cost effect approach would be for unilateral deployment, this would likely result in international tension, a proliferation of lawsuits and even possible lack of support in the deploying country itself; thus a multilateral approach using the UN or other international organization is the optimal option;
    • One option would be for one country to carry out the laboratory research phase, e.g. the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency

This article could generate some interesting discussion. Some of the questions that might be asked include the following:

  • Do you think that Carlin that it’s critical to limit or eliminate the possibility of liability for damages associated with geoengineering schemes? Would this undercut efforts to “legitimize” geoengineering schemes? How could one psosible reconcile these two concerns?
  • Is it likely that a system developed under the purview of a branch of the U.S. military would be deemed legitimate by the world community given efforts by the U.S. military in the past to use weather modification as a military weapon?
  • What would be the decision making structure for full deployment of a geoengineering schme if done under the rubric of an international organization such as the UN? Consensus? A supermajority? A simple majority?

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