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Why Research Geoengineering Governance?

Human-induced climate change poses threats to the survival and livelihoods of many peoples across the world. Early debate on possible responses focused on mitigation, in which we try to reduce carbon emissions by consuming less energy or by reducing the carbon in the energy produced.  In the last decade there has also been increasing discussion of adaptation, in which we also try to see what changes we could make to better cope with climate change. Under discussion now is a third option - the use of a variety of geoengineering technologies to directly modify the planet’s climate.

This research responds to the quickening international interest in the third option, and to recommendations of the report Geoengineering the climate (Royal Society, 2009) and the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology report on The Regulation of Geoengineering (House of Commons, 2010).  The UK Government response to this latter report concludes “Much further research will be needed into the science and technologies of geoengineering…before they could be considered for deployment. We consider regulatory arrangements, including guiding principles, for geoengineering research do need to be developed as soon as possible...” (UK Government, 2010, p.11).

This project builds on the Oxford Principles for Geoengineering Governance (Rayner et al, 2009), which have become widely accepted as a reference point for debate. The five authors of the Principles all contribute to the project directly or indirectly.