--> Publications – Page 2 – Jesse Reynolds / international & technology environmental policy
International Studies Review

The International Politics of Climate Engineering: A Review and Prospectus for International Relations

Journal article
with Joshua B. Horton
18 International Studies Review 438-461
Publication year: 2016
Proposed large-scale intentional interventions in natural systems in order to counter climate change, typically called “climate engineering” or “geoengineering,” stand to dramatically alter the international politics of climate change and potentially much more. There is currently a significant and growing literature on the international politics of climate engineering. However, it has been produced primarily by scholars from outside the discipline of International Relations (IR). We are concerned that IR scholars are missing a critical opportunity to offer insights into, and perhaps help shape, the emerging international politics of climate engineering. To that end, the primary goal of this paper is to call the attention of the IR community to these developments. Thus, we offer here an overview of the existing literature on the international politics of climate engineering and a preliminary assessment of its strengths and lacunae. We trace several key themes in this corpus, including problem structure, the concern that climate engineering could undermine emissions cuts, the potentially “slippery slope” of research and development, unilateral implementation, interstate conflict, militarization, rising tensions between industrialized and developing countries, and governance challenges and opportunities. The international politics of climate engineering is then considered through the lenses of the leading IR theories (Realism, Institutionalism, Liberalism, and Constructivism), exploring both what they have contributed and possible lines of future inquiry. Disciplinary IR scholars should have much to say on a number of topics related to climate engineering, including its power and transformational potentials, the possibility of counter-climate engineering, issues of institutional design, international law, and emergent practices. We believe that it is incumbent on the IR community, whose defining focus is international relations, to turn its attention to these unprecedented technologies and to the full scope of possible ramifications they might have for the international system.
Earth’s Future

Five Solar Geoengineering Tropes That Have Outstayed Their Welcome

Journal article
with Andy Parker and Peter Irvine
4 Earth’s Future 562-568
Publication year: 2016

In the last decade, solar geoengineering (solar radiation management, or SRM) has received increasing consideration as a potential means to reduce risks of anthropogenic climate change. Some ideas regarding SRM that have been proposed have receded after being appropriately scrutinized, while others have strengthened through testing and critique. This process has improved the understanding of SRM’s potential and limitations. However, several claims are frequently made in the academic and popular SRM discourses and, despite evidence to the contrary, pose the risk of hardening into accepted facts. Here, in order to foster a more productive and honest debate, we identify, describe, and refute five of the most problematic claims that are unsupported by existing evidence, unlikely to occur, or greatly exaggerated. These are: (A) once started, SRM cannot be stopped; (B) SRM is a right-wing project; (C) SRM would cost only a few billion dollars per year; (D) modeling studies indicate that SRM would disrupt monsoon precipitation; and (E) there is an international prohibition on outdoors research. SRM is a controversial proposed set of technologies that could prove to be very helpful or very harmful, and it warrants vigorous and informed public debate. By highlighting and debunking some persistent but unsupported claims, this paper hopes to bring rigor to such discussions.

Climate Change Law

Climate Engineering and International Law

Book chapter
Climate Change Law, Daniel Farber and Marjan Peeters (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Environmental Law, Michael Faure (Series ed.) (Edward Elgar) 178-188
Publication year: 2016

In the face of dire forecasts of climate change and disappointing emissions abatement, some scientists and others are increasingly suggesting and researching intentional, large-scale interventions in natural systems in order to counteract climate change. These ‘climate engineering’ or ‘geoengineering’ proposals presently appear to hold the potential to significantly reduce the risks from climate change, but they also would pose environmental and social risks and would raise numerous legal questions, particularly at the international level. After introducing climate engineering, this chapter suggests why climate engineering is challenging for international environmental law and its scholars, briefly describes applicable international legal instruments and reviews the existing legal scholarship on the international environmental law of climate engineering, with particular attention to proposals for future international regulation. It closes with suggestions for future research.

European Journal of Risk Regulation

Special Issue on Regulating Climate Engineering in the European Union: Opening Editorial

Journal article
7 European Journal of Risk Regulation 58-59
Publication year: 2016
The Anthropocene Review

A Critical Examination of the Climate Engineering Moral Hazard and Risk Compensation Concern

Journal article
2 The Anthropocene Review 174-191
Publication year: 2015

The widespread concern that research into and potential implementation of climate engineering would reduce mitigation and adaptation is critically examined. First, empirical evidence of such moral hazard or risk compensation in general is inconclusive, and the empirical evidence to date in the case of climate engineering indicates that the reverse may occur. Second, basic economics of substitutes shows that reducing mitigation in response to climate engineering implementation could provide net benefits to humans and the environment, and that climate engineering might theoretically increase mitigation through strong income effects. Third, existing policies strive to promote other technologies and measures, including climate adaptation, which induce analogous risk-compensating behaviours. If the goal of climate policy is to minimize climate risks, this concern should not be grounds for restricting or prohibiting climate engineering research. Three potential means for this concern to manifest in genuinely deleterious ways, as well as policy options to reduce these effects, are identified.

Published online ahead of print in 2014.

Climate Law

An Economic Analysis of Liability and Compensation for Harm from Large-Scale Solar Climate Engineering Field Research

Book chapterJournal article
5 Climate Law 182-209
Publication year: 2015

Solar climate engineering is under increasing consideration as a potential means to reduce climate change risks. Its field research may generate knowledge to reduce climate risks to humans and the environment and will, at a large-enough scale, pose its own risks, some of which will be of the transboundary kind. Liability or compensation for harm is frequently referenced as a possible component of international regulation of solar climate engineering but has been insufficiently developed. This article offers an economic analysis of the possible interrelated roles of rules, liability, and compensation in the future international regulation of large-scale field research in solar climate engineering. Notably, the benefits, risks, and incentives of climate-engineering research are unlike typical high-risk activities. The analysis proposes a hypothetical international agreement that links general and procedural rules for research, an international compensation fund, and limited, indirect state liability with a duty-of-care defence.

Reprinted in Environmental Law and Economics, Klaus Mathis (Ed.), Economic Analysis of Law in European Legal Scholarship series (Springer, 2017).

Journal of Environmental Law

The International Regulation of Climate Engineering: Lessons from Nuclear Power

Journal article
26 Journal of Environmental Law 269-289
Publication year: 2014
Proposals for climate engineering—intentional large-scale interventions in climate systems—are increasingly under consideration as potential additional responses to climate change, yet they pose risks of their own. Existing international regulation of large-scale field testing and deployment is considered inadequate. This article looks to the closest existing analogy—nuclear power—for lessons, and concludes that climate engineering research will most likely be promoted and will not be the subject of a binding multilateral agreement in the near future. Instead, climate engineering and its research will probably be internationally regulated gradually, with an initially low degree of legalisation, and through a plurality of means and institutions. This regulation is expected to proceed from norms, to non-binding and non-legal policies, and then to relatively soft multilateral agreements which emphasise procedural duties. Any eventual agreements will have trade-offs between their strength and breadth of participation. Intergovernmental institutions could play important facilitative roles. Treaties regarding liability and non-proliferation of global deployment capability should be considered.
Washington and Lee Journal of Energy, Climate, and the Environment

Climate Engineering Field Research: The Favorable Setting of International Environmental Law

Journal article
5 Washington and Lee Journal of Energy, Climate, and the Environment 417-485
Publication year: 2014

As forecasts for climate change and its impacts have become more dire, climate engineering proposals have come under increasing consideration and are presently moving toward field trials. This article examines the relevant international environmental law, distinguishing between climate engineering research and deployment. It also emphasizes the climate change context of these proposals and the enabling function of law. Extant international environmental law generally favors such field tests, in large part because, even though field trials may present uncertain risks to humans and the environment, climate engineering may reduce the greater risks of climate change. Notably, this favorable legal setting is present in those multilateral environmental agreements whose subject matter is closest to climate engineering. This favorable legal setting is also, in part, due to several relevant multilateral environmental agreements that encourage scientific research and technological development, along with the fact that climate engineering research is consistent with principles of international environmental law. Existing international law, however, imposes some procedural duties on States who are responsible for climate engineering field research as well as a handful of particular prohibitions and constraints.

Ethics, Policy & Environment

Response to Svoboda and Irvine (Ethical and Technical Challenges in Compensating for Harm Due to Solar Radiation Management Geoengineering)

Journal article
17 Ethics, Policy & Environment 183-185
Publication year: 2014
Carbon and Climate Law Review

Climate Engineering Research: A Precautionary Response to Climate Change?

Book chapterJournal article
with Floor Fleurke
Carbon and Climate Law Review 101-107
Publication year: 2013

In the face of dire forecasts for anthropogenic climate change, climate engineering is increasingly discussed as a possible additional set of responses to reduce climate change’s threat. These proposals have been controversial, in part because they – like climate change itself – pose uncertain risks to the environment and human well-being. Under these challenging circumstances of potential catastrophe and risk-risk trade-off, it is initially unclear to what extent precaution is applicable. We examine what precaution is and is not, and make a prima facie case that climate engineering may provide means to reduce climate risks. When precaution is applied to the currently pertinent matter of small to moderate scale climate engineering field tests, we conclude that precaution encourages them, despite their potential risks.

Reprinted in Environmental Law and Climate Change, Jonathan Verschuuren (Ed.), The International Library of Law and the Environment series (Edward Elgar, 2015).

Law, Innovation and Technology

The Regulation of Climate Engineering

Book chapterJournal article
3 Law, Innovation and Technology 113-136
Publication year: 2011

Intentional interventions in global physical, chemical, and biological systems on a massive scale are receiving increasing attention in hopes of reducing the threat of anthropogenic climate change. Known as climate engineering, or geoengineering, research is moving forward, but regulation remains inadequate, due in part to significant regulatory challenges. This essay asserts that key to overcoming these regulatory challenges is distinguishing between the two primary forms of climate engineering, and between deployment and research. One of climate engineering’s two primary forms, carbon dioxide removal, can largely be addressed through existing legal instruments. In the case of solar radiation management, the other primary form, focusing initially on research can bypass the geopolitical quagmire of deployment. Two other major challenges to developing regulation for solar radiation management research remain: establishing regulatory legitimacy, and developing an appropriate definition of research. Potential regulatory forms include centralized international legal instruments, fully or partially private transnational networks, and norms developed from the bottom up.

Reprinted in Environmental Law and Climate Change, Jonathan Verschuuren (Ed.), The International Library of Law and the Environment series (Edward Elgar, 2015).