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The Time for Abatement Alone Is Passing Us By - Should Humanity Consider Geoengineering?

Transparency Needed for Public Trust Globally

Arunabha Ghosh
November 2018 | Technology, Finance & Trade

Suggested citation: Ghosh, Arunabha. 2018. “Transparency Needed for Public Trust Globally.” The Environmental Forum 35(6): 54.

Overview

This comment underscores that geoengineering technologies to stabilise the climate will most likely be adopted, given the world remains on track for more than 3°C of average warming by 2100. But ad hoc adoption and deployment of these technologies (hitherto untested and unproven at scale) by countries facing climate emergencies, operating outside of any governance and regulatory frameworks can have massive and unintended regional fallouts. It suggests the need to hasten the setting up of governance frameworks that include protocols for the research and testing of these technologies as well as deployment and call back protocols. And that not just the scientific community, but people at large need to be informed and consulted about these to build public trust and minimise public risk.

Key Highlights

  • A code of conduct for geoengineering research could serve as a stop-gap to control public risks until more formal national and international governance mechanisms are set up.
  • Institutionalise transparency for it to work for geoengineering. A well-designed information system would: disseminate information about national policies and research activities; promote compliance with codes of conduct via peer pressure among research groups, member countries, explicit sanctions, or pressure from non-state actors; and evaluate the impact of geoengineering research and experiments.
  • Pursue progressively inclusive governance for overall geoengineering assessments. It could begin with national assessments and consultations to yield governance and transparency templates for policy for different stages of research and experimentation. These policies could then be reported to international forums. A combination of government and nongovernmental entities could coordinate for independent peer reviews and international consultations on research.
  • With increased transparency and public trust, an international geoengineering research programme could be envisaged, taking account of research capacities, funding, intellectual property, and rules for accountability and liability.
Without transparency (in geoengineering), there will be more contestation. With transparency, conditions of distrust could be marginally abated.

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