Environmental Policy

Cure for Global Warming or Hidden Threat?

Flooded street in the wake of Hurricane Sandy

There is consensus among scientists that global warming is real and due to human acitivity. Some have begun talking about the possibility of counteracting the warming effect of GHG emissions by intentionally altering fundamental planetary processes. “Geoengineering,” proposals range from fertilizing the oceans with iron to putting mirrors in space to reflect sunlight away from the planet. While some offer realistic and relatively inexpensive options for offsetting the warming effect, all are likely to have unknown, adverse, and possibly severe impacts on ecosystems or climate.

In Reining in Phaethon's Chariot: Principles for the Governance of Geoengineering, Environmental Policy Director Jonathon Carlson argues that there is an urgent need for the international community to establish a governance framework to control experimentation and implementation that seeks to counteract global warming. To ensure proper consideration of environmental risks and, in particular, consideration of harms that may be imposed on populations other than those of the geoengineers themselves, the authors recommend a set of governing principles and a governance structure for making decisions concerning the deployment of geoengineering solutions to climate change.

For more, read the recent IowaNow article, The Laws of Global Warming, that focuses on Professor Carlson's work.