Print Issue Volume 100 - Issue 6

The Missing Pieces of Geoengineering Research Governance

Proposals to govern geoengineering research have focused heavily on the physical risks associated with individual research projects, and to a somewhat lesser degree on fostering public trust. While these concerns are critical, they are not the only concerns that research governance should address. Generally overlooked, and more difficult to address, are the systemic concerns geoengineering research raises: technological lock-in—the danger that sustained research efforts will predetermine geoengineering deployment decisions; moral hazard—the danger that increased attention to geoengineering will undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and the potential that research itself will contribute to future global conflict. Developing mechanisms to address these systemic concerns is a difficult, but essential, task. This Article proposes an ongoing programmatic technology assessment to analyze the physical and systemic risks associated with geoengineering research, prioritization of research into techniques involving lesser risks, and establishment of safeguards against such risks.

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