Since the 1980s, climate change has transformed from a scientific discovery to being the most prevalent issue within the arena of political ecology. The world today has yet to fulfil the goal of emission reduction to a level that can keep global warming below the threshold of two degrees Celsius. Amidst various approaches used to cure the pressing climate change problems, the IPCC publication of Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis Report suggested that the use of geoengineering technologies could be a possible solution (IPCC, 2013). Serious political and moral issues have arisen in consideration of these large–scale geoengineering projects. Proponents of this ‘technological fix’ believe priority should be placed on preventing the catastrophic climate change effects by any means necessary. Opponents argue for nurturing a more humble connection with nature and taking responsibility for past emissions of humanity. In light of these emerging debates, this essay does not intend to either promote or dishonour geoengineering as a solution to climate change. Rather, this essay aims to help its audience to understand the contested debates associated with geoengineering while hoping to provide a more balanced insight into this discourse.
The first section of the essay will give a brief introduction to the current climate change issues. This will be followed by an overview of the most prominent geoengineering proposals to date in the second section. The third section will look into some of the moral questions associated with geoengineering. The fourth section will explore the economics, politics and governance of geoengineering. In conclusion, a recommendation will be provided for building the trust needed among the international community to better understand this emerging debate.
Overview of Climate Change
It cannot be denied that climate change is now a widely recognized threat to human civilization. The topic first appeared in the global dialogue in 1988 within the United Nations (UN), where the UN General Assembly recognized climate change was a ‘common concern of all mankind’ (Cherian, 2012). Within two decades of scientific analyses, there were drastic improvements in the understanding of the causes and effects of climate change and its related impact on human well-being. The problem of climate change is due to the existing and potential impacts of increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and further warming of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere (Cherian, 2012). Major climate change impacts include the increase in global warming, extreme weather events, heat waves, forest fires, and glacial retreat. The current concentration of carbon dioxide, about 385 ppm, is already far too high to maintain the climate to which humanity, biodiversity, and the rest of the biosphere can adapt. What is needed as a minimum requirement is the effort to bring down carbon dioxide concentration to about 350 ppm, which...