Scenario 5: Catch-up Governance: Responding to a Deployment Challenge
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It is 2045. Distressingly, nations of the world have continued to muddle through their response to climate change, making very limited progress. Scientific judgments on the potential efficacy and risks of solar geoengineering are similar to those of 2035, ten years ago. It appears that significant further advances in understanding would require tests on such a large scale that they would be similar to a weak global deployment. Mitigation progress remains woefully inadequate to meet reasonably prudent climate targets. Global greenhouse-gas emissions have peaked, and are now 50 - 55 Gt CO2e per year and falling slowly. Global-average temperature is now 2.0 C above the pre-industrial, still rising at between 0.2 and 0.3 C per decade. Impacts are much worse than ten years ago, still unequally distributed, and mounting – with large-scale flows of climate refugees and political destabilization in multiple countries.
Negotiations to develop international governance for climate engineering were begun ten years ago, in 2035, but proceeded half-heartedly, never received priority attention of government leaders, and achieved minimal progress.
Last week, at the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, a diverse group of highly vulnerable nations – including both large and small, and both middle and low income – shocked the world by announcing that they began a program of operational solar geoengineering deployment three years ago. They designed the program based on confidential consultations with an elite international scientific and technical group, and implemented it with the aid of an anonymous group of international philanthropists. They have ramped up the intervention slowly, and it is now exerting global-average forcing of -1.5W/m2 – in other words, it is offsetting between one quarter and one third of the heating effect being exerted by current atmospheric levels of anthropogenic greenhouse gases.
In their announcement, the group of nations stated that their people were suffering severe, life-threatening harms from climate change; that the global response to climate change was gravely inadequate; and that they had lost confidence in attempts to negotiate climate engineering governance in advance. They thus judged that they were compelled to take matters into their own hands, and acted to protect their peoples. While they made it clear that they are determined to continue their program, they also stated their hope that other nations will join them and work together to developed an agreed international approach to climate engineering governance.
World reaction to the announcement is strong, divided, and confused. Within the participating nations, there appears to be strong popular and elite support for the program. Reactions elsewhere range from mixed support (roughly, “Good that someone’s taking action, but why them and what does it mean for us?”), to demands for immediate military action to stop the program. Cooler heads are alarmed that such a response might quickly trigger a world war.
Your Group’s Task:
You are a group of senior officials from major world powers, reporting directly to your heads of government, called together following an emergency session of the Security Council three days after the announcement.
You must decide a response – best a coordinated response from all your governments, but failing that a response for your own government. The response may include, e.g., a joint announcement; an outline of a program of action, coordinated or separate; or a proposal for international action broader than just your members.
Be specific. Your leaders have made generic statements of concern, but they want rapid guidance on more specific statements, actions, or initiatives. Today is Wednesday, October 11, 2045. Your government leader wants a concrete recommendation on her desk by 5:00 PM Friday.