The Complications of Climate Engineering and International Law

by Emily Segal

As anthropogenic climate change continues to become an increasingly discussed social, political and environmental issue, some people are turning to climate engineering as a way to supplement the pre-existing strategies of mitigation and adaptation. In the paper reviewed here, Winter (2011) explores its relationship to international law. Geoengineering, or geological engineering, refers to the application of geoscience to shape our interaction with the earth. Some forms of geoengineering that have been around for a while are detrimental to the health of our planet. Examples include deforestation, the method of clearing forested land to create arable land for monocultures, and burning fossil fuels, a process that releases toxic substances into the atmosphere, which contribute to the greenhouse effect and speed up global warming. New forms of geoengineering, however, are different from these older forms because they do not encourage side-effects that are harmful to the environment. Instead, they have intended consequences that will help reduce climate change. Carbon capture and storage (CCS), a way of capturing CO2 after it is emitted and storing it in land, is an example of a more recent form of geoengineering that would aid in decelerating climate change. Solar Radiation Management (SRM) is another form of geoengineering intended to reduce climate change. SRM increases surface and cloud albedo, a kind of weather manipulation that could be effective if used on a large scale. Continue reading