Scenario 4: If the Cure is Worse than the Disease: Putting on the Brakes
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It is 2035. The context is the same as in Scenarios 2 and 3. Fifteen years of solar geoengineering research has yielded promising (but not conclusive) results. Mitigation efforts have achieved mediocre success and efforts are ongoing. Global temperature is 1.7 C above pre-industrial. Climate-change impacts are serious, mounting, and highly unequally distributed.
A group of vulnerable nations has announced they intend to develop operational solar geoengineering capacity, with the threat that some of them may proceed unilaterally if negotiations to develop international governance do not succeed.
Those negotiations to establish an international climate engineering governance regime have just begun. It seems clear that the aim of many nations in these negotiations is to develop a governance system that would, under at least some conditions, enable or authorize full-scale deployment.
You represent an informal coalition of several mid-sized national governments and multiple international civil-society groups who are opposed to solar geoengineering deployment, and to any further continuance or expansion of present research programs.
Your group is convinced that any move to deployment would be a grave error, far worse both for your members – who are experiencing serious impacts, but fortunately are not among those suffering the most severe harms – and also for the prospect of a livable and justly governed world, than any risks you expect from climate change. You are skeptical of claimed scientific consensus that solar geoengineering can be safely and effectively deployed. Moreover, independent of the effectiveness and direct environmental impact of any interventions, you also believe that solar geoengineering deployments cannot be governed in a manner that is effective, safe, and compatible with a just and sustainable international order – perhaps not even compatible with democracy itself. While you can imagine the possibility that some future increase in severity of climate risks might lead you to change your view, your overall assessment of global risks makes you judge that quite unlikely.
Your Group’s Task:
You are a strategic planning task force assembled by this coalition of national governments and international civil-society groups.
Your group is not naïve about the workings of the international system or the dominance of great powers. Yet while your group does not include any great world powers, you are able to exercise significant international influence. Through your government members, you can introduce and promote specific proposals in inter-governmental negotiations. Through your civil-society members and extended networks of like-minded groups, you can mount substantial, well-resourced domestic political and citizen campaigns in multiple nations.
You recognize that you cannot stop the negotiations that are about to begin, but you expect to be able to exercise some influence over their substantive direction.
What specific decisions or actions do you wish to propose in the coming international climate engineering governance negotiations? What are the key arguments you will make to persuade other negotiating governments of the merit of these proposals? What parallel initiatives outside these negotiations are your highest priorities to pursue?