The Red Dawn of Geoengineering: First Step Toward an Effective Governance for Stratospheric Injections

By: Edward J. Larson

A landmark report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued in 2015 is the latest in a series of scientific studies to assess the feasibility of geoengineering with stratospheric aerosols to offset anthropogenic global warming and to conclude that they offer a possibly viable supplement or back-up alternative to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The known past effect of major explosive volcanic eruptions temporarily moderating average worldwide temperatures provides evidence in support of this once taboo form of climate intervention. In the most extensive study to date, an elite NAS committee now suggests that such processes for adjusting global temperature, while still uncertain, merit further research and field testing. Every study stresses the need for transparent international governance of stratospheric injections, especially given that the benefits of such interventions are certain to be unevenly distributed and the risks are not fully known. After examining the roadblocks to such governance, this paper explores the statutory and common law frameworks that could provide some stop-gap approaches until the needed regulatory regime emerges.

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Cite: 14 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 157

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