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Far Out in Three Dimensions: Solar Geoengineering and Security from the Middle of the USA

Thursday 1 June 2023, 14:00 - 15:00
Social Sciences Building, seminar room 14.33

Solar geoengineering is our attempt to respond to a climate crisis that we are unwilling, due to the constraints of sovereignty, to respond to in any other way. The customary international law regime has failed us when it comes to climate, as the recent COP26 demonstrated. States are unable or unwilling to shoulder the cost and work necessary for mitigation, lest they lose comparative advantage relative to another sovereign country, and they are more than happy to let the cost of adaptation be borne by those people unlucky enough to need it. This leaves us with our 3rd option: climate-altering technologies of some kind.

Great Power scientific prowess means that the lure of the “technological fix” can be not only an acceptable solution but often irresistible to policymakers, especially when the other options are expensive (mitigation) or painful (adaptation). The United States is moving forward with consideration of and planning for solar geo technology, so the ethical arguments against it are likely to fail (i.e., not sway policy makers’ decision process).

If the United States goes ahead with this, other nations will also, to the extent of their capabilities. Even leaving aside any secondary economic benefits such as development of new technologies, they cannot afford to let the United States gain operational hegemony over the atmosphere. Nation that 1st deploys solar geo at scale launches the climate arms race. To avoid this, Dr Chalecki of University of Nebraska advocates that we adopt a position of ecological realism in which maintenance and protection of a stable planetary biosphere is every nation’s primary security goal.

Dr. Chalecki’s expertise lies in the areas of climate change and security, global environmental politics, and the intersection of science & technology and IR.  She has published almost 25 books, articles, and book chapters on diverse topics such as climate change and Arctic security, environmental terrorism, climate change and international law, public perceptions of environmental issues, and water in outer space.