Currently Happening Presently Now: GEOENGINEERING

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"I pointed out to him that the larger the storm, and the more energy that is stored in it, the easier it should be at the proper stage in its development to get widespread effects. To assume that a hurricane could not be successfully modified by even a single pellet of dry ice is like assuming that a large forest could not be set on fire by such a small thing as a single match."
-Irving Langmuir, Final Report of Project Cirrus, quoted in Horace R. Byers, “History of Weather Modification,” in Weather and Climate Modification, ed. WN Hess, 1974.

Tukey, J. W., Alexander, M., Bennett, H. S., Brady, N. C., Calhoun Jr, J. C., Geyer, J. C., & Whittenberger, J. L. (1965). Restoring the quality of our environment. Report of the environmental pollution panel, President’s Science Advisory Committee, The White House.

The possibilities of deliberately bringing about countervailing climatic changes...need to be thoroughly explored.

Hart, D. M., & Victor, D. G. (1993). Scientific elites and the making of US policy for climate change research, 1957-74. Social Studies of Science, 23(4), 643-680.

This paper presents a case study of the role of scientific elites in mediating between science and politics, securing support for research and shaping the interests of the rank and file. We apply a 'garbage can' model, which posits that science, policy and politics typically evolve in seperate, unconnected streams, each with its own momentum. In this model, elites may act strategically as 'policy entrepreneurs' to take advantage of occasional temporary opportunities, or 'windows', to influence the policy and science streams. Our case study is of US policy toward research related to the Greenhouse Effect from the International Geophysical Year in 1957 to the aftermath of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment. We trace the evolution of two research programmes - carbon-cycle research and atmospheric modelling. The major political strategies followed by the relevant elites connected with these programmes were concerned with the pursuit of professional autonomy, with weather modification and with environmentalism. Changes in elite strategy followed mainly from events outside science, in the policy and politics 'streams', rather than from scientific findings.

Lunde, L. (1991). Science or politics in the global greenhouse?: a study of the development towards scientific consensus on climate change.

The major aim of the report is to analyse to what extent, and possibly how, the level of scientific consensus on global warming has changed over the last twenty years, with a particular focus on the IPCC process (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)...Two 'constants' or basic structural variables are important elements of the explanatory framework of scientific consensus processes. The scientific problem structure is probably the most crucial one, and is made up of the following three indicators: the extent of heterogeneity, the extent of maturity and the extent of scientific uncertainty. Scientific problem structures that are heterogeneous, relatively immature and riddled with fundamental uncertainty are considered malign. The actual character of a scientific problem structure significantly conditions the scope for changes in the level of consensus, and not least the possible influences of more 'temporal' independent variables. Turning to the political problem structure, its main feature is viewed to be the affectedness of political actors to policies that are believed to be influenced by for instance a scientific consensus that gradually grows more robust. The stronger one expects to be touched by political action or inaction vis-a-vis a given problem, the stronger incentives one has to try to manipulate the developments of a scientific consensus process.

In brief, the scientific and political problem structures of global warming are found to be perhaps unprecedently malign. They are also related, in that scientific malignancy makes a political problem structure more malign, and vice versa. The scope for changes in scientific greenhouse consensus, as well as the possible influences of other independent variables, are strongly conditioned by the state of the problem structures.

The 'temporal' independent variables are grouped in three different clusters. Standard epistemic factors is the common denominator for variables that generally are viewed as either elements in or byproducts of 'rational scientific puzzle-solving'. Non-epistemic factors make up the opposite category. Included here are elements like political lobbying or manipulation, ostracism of scientists or scientific disciplines from debates in scientific journals or consensus processes, opportunism (conscious or unconscious) taking place when (or rather if) scientists skew research practices or results in order to please political authorities or funding agencies. Somewhere in the midst between the two other categories we then find non-standard epistemic factors. Elements included here are 'organization' of scientific consensus processes, the workings of 'epistemic communities', the possible influence wielded by political entrepreneurs' and 'leaming' by individual scientists.

Demeritt, D. (2001). The construction of global warming and the politics of science. Annals of the association of American geographers, 91(2), 307-337.

Having outlined a theory of heterogeneous social construction, this article describes the scientific construction of climate change as a global-scale environmental problem caused by the universal physical properties of greenhouse gases. Critics have noted that this reductionist formulation serves a variety of political purposes, but instrumental and interest-based critiques of the use of scientific knowledge tend to ignore the ways in which a politics gets built into science at the upstream end. By retracing the history of climate modeling and of several scientific controversies, I unmask the tacit social and epistemic commitments implied by its specific practices. The specific scientific framing of global climate change has reinforced and been reinforced by the technocratic inclinations of global climate management. The social organization of climate change science and its articulation with the political process raise important questions about trust, uncertainty, and expertise. The article concludes with a discussion of the political brittleness of this dominant science-led and global-scale formulation of the climate change problem and the need for a more reflexive politics of climate change and of scientific knowledge based on active trust.

Fleming, James Rodger. "A History of the Science and Politics of Climate Change: The Role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change." (2011): 93-94.

Miller, C. A. (2004). Climate science and the making of a global political order. States of knowledge: The coproduction of science and social order, 46-66.

Anderegg, W. R., Callaway, E. S., Boykoff, M. T., Yohe, G., & Root, T. L. (2014). Awareness of both type I and II errors in climate science and assessment. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Treatment of error and uncertainty is an essential component of science and is crucial in policy-relevant disciplines such as climate science. We posit here that awareness of both “false positive” and “false negative” errors is particularly critical in climate science and assessments, such as those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Scientific and assessment practices likely focus more attention to avoiding false positives, which could lead to higher prevalence of false negative errors. We explore here the treatment of error avoidance in two prominent case studies regarding sea-level rise and Himalayan glacier melt as presented in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While different decision rules are necessarily appropriate for different circumstances, we highlight that false negative errors also have consequences, including impaired communication of the risks of climate change. We present recommendations for better accounting for both types of errors in the scientific process and scientific assessments...Type I and Type II errors become especially important in what has been termed “post-normal science,” where risks and/or uncertainty are high in a policy-relevant issue and decisions must likely be made without complete certainty. With its dependence on the complex and chaotic coupled climate-land-ocean system, human activities, policy decisions, system inertia, and time lags, climate science and impacts is generally considered within these landscapes of post-normal science. These two types of errors factor into the complex landscape of uncertainty characterization, which has been increasingly explored and utilized within the context of the IPCC. Yet careful treatment of Type II errors can fall outside current uncertainty characterizations and has particular relevance to climate impacts. Failure to account for both Type I and Type II errors leaves a discipline or assessment processes in danger of irrelevancy, misrepresentation, and unnecessary damages to society and human well-being.

Brysse, K., Oreskes, N., O’Reilly, J., & Oppenheimer, M. (2013). Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama?. Global Environmental Change, 23(1), 327-337.

Over the past two decades, skeptics of the reality and significance of anthropogenic climate change have frequently accused climate scientists of ‘‘alarmism’’: of over-interpreting or overreacting to evidence of human impacts on the climate system. However, the available evidence suggests that scientists have in fact been conservative in their projections of the impacts of climate change. In particular, we discuss recent studies showing that at least some of the key attributes of global warming from increased atmospheric greenhouse gases have been under-predicted, particularly in IPCC assessments of the physical science, by Working Group I. We also note the less frequent manifestation of over-prediction of key characteristics of climate in such assessments. We suggest, therefore, that scientists are biased not toward alarmism but rather the reverse: toward cautious estimates, where we define caution as erring on the side of less rather than more alarming predictions. We call this tendency ‘‘erring on the side of least drama (ESLD).’’ We explore some cases of ESLD at work, including predictions of Arctic ozone depletion and the possible disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and suggest some possible causes of this directional bias, including adherence to the scientific norms of restraint, objectivity, skepticism, rationality, dispassion, and moderation. We conclude with suggestions for further work to identify and explore ESLD.

Bonnheim, N. B. (2010). History of climate engineering. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1(6), 891-897.

The modern concept of geoengineering as a response to anthropogenic climate change evolved from much earlier proposals to modify the climate. The well-documented history of weather modification provides a much-needed historical perspective on geoengineering in the face of current climate anxiety and the need for responsive action. Drawing on material from the mid-20th century until today, this paper asserts the importance of looking at geoengineering holistically—of integrating social considerations with technical promise, and scientific study with human and moral dimensions. While the debate is often couched in scientific terms, the consequences of geoengineering the climate stretch far beyond the world of science into the realms of ethics, legality, and society. Studying the history of geoengineering can help produce fresh insights about what has happened and about what may happen, and can help frame important decisions that will soon be made as to whether geoengineering is a feasible alternative to mitigation, a possible partner, or a dangerous experiment with our fragile planet.

Kwa, C. (2001). The rise and fall of weather modification: changes in American attitudes toward technology, nature, and society. Changing the Atmosphere: expert knowledge and environmental governance, 135-65.

Fleming, J. R. (2007). The climate engineers. The Wilson Quarterly, 46-60.

There is, moreover, a troubling motif of militarization in the history of weather and climate control. Military leaders in the United States and other countries have pondered the possibilities of weaponized weather manipulation for decades...Lowell Wood himself embodies the overlap of civilian and military interests. Now affiliated with the Hoover Institution, a think tank at Stanford -University, Wood was a protégé of the late Edward Teller, the weapons scientist who was credited with developing the hydrogen bomb and was the architect of the Reagan-era Star Wars missile defense system (which Wood worked on, too). Like Wood, Teller was known for his advocacy of controversial military and technological solutions to complex problems...Despite the large, unanswered questions about the implications of playing God with the elements, climate engineering is now being widely discussed in the scientific community and is taken seriously within the U.S. government...and there is a long paper trail of climate and weather modification studies by the Pentagon and other government agencies...In March 1971, nationally syndicated columnist Jack Anderson broke the story about Air Force rainmakers in Southeast Asia in the Washington Post, a story confirmed several months later with the leaking of the Pentagon Papers and splashed on the front page of The New York Times in 1972 by Seymour Hersh. By 1973, despite stonewalling by Nixon administration officials, the U.S. Senate had adopted a resolution calling for an international treaty “prohibiting the use of any environmental or geophysical modification activity as a weapon of war.” The following year, Senator Claiborne Pell (D.-R.I.), referring to the field as a “Pandora’s box,” published the transcript of a formerly top-secret briefing by the Defense Department on the topic of weather warfare. Eventually, it was revealed that the CIA had tried rainmaking in South Vietnam as early as 1963 in an attempt to break up the protests of Buddhist monks, and that cloud seeding was probably used in Cuba to disrupt the sugarcane harvest. Similar technology had been employed, yet proved ineffective, in drought relief efforts in India and Pakistan, the Philippines, Panama, Portugal, and Okinawa. All of the programs were conducted under military sponsorship and had the direct involvement of the White House...

Fleming, J. R. (2012). Fixing the sky: the checkered history of weather and climate control. Columbia University Press.

Harper, K. C. (2008). Climate control: United States weather modification in the cold war and beyond. Endeavour, 32(1), 20-26.

Fleming, J. R. (2007, December). On the Possibilities of Climate Control in 1962: Harry Wexler on Geoengineering and Ozone Destruction. In American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting.

In 1962, in the early days of GCMs and satellites, Harry Wexler, Chief of the Scientific Services Division of the U.S. Weather Bureau and one of the most influential meteorologists of the 20th century, turned his attention to techniques that could raise or lower the overall temperature of the planet or rearrange its thermal structure. He also investigated possible inadvertent and purposeful damage to the ozone layer involving catalytic reactions of chorine and bromine. This work pre-dated the Nobel Prize-winning work on ozone depletion of P. Crutzen, M. Molina, and S. Rowland by about a decade. Wexler revealed his concerns about geoengineering and ozone destruction in a series of lectures "On the Possibilities of Climate Control" presented to technical audiences in Boston, Hartford, and Los Angeles in 1962. Using newly available results from GCMs and satellite heat budget experiments, Wexler pointed out that strategic manipulations of the Earth's shortwave and longwave radiation budgets could result in rather large-scale effects on general circulation patterns in short or longer periods, even approaching that of climatic change. These techniques, included increasing world temperature by several degrees by detonating up to ten H-bombs in the Arctic Ocean; decreasing world temperature by launching powder into an equatorial orbit to shade the Earth and make it look somewhat like Saturn and its rings; warming the lower atmosphere and cooling the stratosphere by artificial injections of water vapor or other substances; and notably, destroying all stratospheric ozone above the Arctic circle or near the equator using a relatively small amount of a catalytic agent such as chlorine or bromine. Wexler was preparing a new lecture in the summer of 1962 on "The Climate of Earth and Its Modifications," and might, under normal circumstances, have prepared his ideas for publication, as he had done earlier. However, he was cut down in his prime by a sudden heart attack on August 11, 1962. His previously unexamined notes and papers on climate control and ozone destruction are located in the Library of Congress.

Fleming, J. R. (2010, December). Space Geoengineering: James A. Van Allen's Role in Detecting and Disrupting the Magnetosphere, 1958-1962. In AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts (Vol. 1, p. 03).

James A. Van Allen's celebrated discovery of Earth's radiation belts in 1958 using Explorer 1 and 3 satellites was immediately followed by his agreement to monitor tests of nuclear weapons in space aimed at disrupting the magnetosphere. This is ``space geoengineering'' on a planetary scale. ``Space is radioactive,'' noted Van Allen's colleague Eric Ray, and the military wanted to make it even more radioactive by nuclear detonations that, in time of war might disrupt enemy radio communications from half a world away and damage or destroy enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles. This study of Van Allen's participation in Project Argus (1958) and Project Starfish (1962) is based on new posthumous accessions to the Van Allen Papers. At the time radio astronomers protested that, ``No government has the right to change the environment in any significant way without prior international study and agreement.'' Van Allen later regretted his participation in experiments that disrupted the natural magnetosphere. In a larger policy framework, the history of these space interventions and the protests they generated serve as a cautionary tale for today's geoengineers who are proposing heavy-handed manipulation of the planetary environment as a response to future climate warming. Anyone claiming that geoengineering has not yet been attempted should be reminded of the planetary-scale engineering of these nukes in space. N. Christofilos describing the intended effect of the Argus nuclear explosions on the magnetosphere, which would direct a stream of radioactive particles along magnetic lines of force half a world away.

House, T. J., Near Jr, J. B., Shields, W. B., Celentano, R. J., & Husband, D. M. (1996). Weather as a force multiplier: Owning the weather in 2025. Air War Coll Maxwell Afb al.

In 2025, US aerospace forces can “own the weather” by capitalizing on emerging technologies and focusing development of those technologies to war-fighting applications. Such a capability offers the war fighter tools to shape the battlespace in ways never before possible. It provides opportunities to impact operations across the full spectrum of conflict and is pertinent to all possible futures. The purpose of this paper is to outline a strategy for the use of a future weather-modification system to achieve military objectives rather than to provide a detailed technical road map.

A high-risk, high-reward endeavor, weather-modification offers a dilemma not unlike the splitting of the atom. While some segments of society will always be reluctant to examine controversial issues such as weather-modification, the tremendous military capabilities that could result from this field are ignored at our own peril. From enhancing friendly operations or disrupting those of the enemy via small-scale tailoring of natural weather patterns to complete dominance of global communications and counterspace control, weather-modification offers the war fighter a wide-range of possible options to defeat or coerce an adversary. Some of the potential capabilities a weather-modification system could provide to a war-fighting commander in chief (CINC) are listed in table 1.

Technology advancements in five major areas are necessary for an integrated weather-modification capability: (1) advanced nonlinear modeling techniques, (2) computational capability, (3) information gathering and transmission, (4) a global sensor array, and (5) weather intervention techniques. Some intervention tools exist today and others may be developed and refined in the future.

Bertell, R. (2001). Planet Earth: the latest weapon of war. Black Rose Books Ltd..

"Substantial progress within the environmental sciences is slowly overcoming the gaps between fact and fiction regarding manipulations of the earth's physical environment. As these manipulations become possible, history shows that attempts may be made to use them in support of national ambitions. To consider the consequences of environmental modification in struggles among nations, we need to consider the present state of the subject and how postulated developments in the field could lead, ten to fifty years from now, to weapons systems that would use nature in new and perhaps unexpected ways. The key to geophysical warfare is the identification of the environmental instabilities to which the addition of a small amount of energy would release vastly greater amounts of energy...There has been much controversy in recent years about conjectured over-all effects on the world's climate of emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from furnaces and engines burning fossil fuels...Carbon dioxide placed in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution has produced an increase in the average temperature of the lower atmosphere of a few tenths of a degree Fahrenheit. The water vapor that may be introduced into the stratosphere by supersonic transport may also result in a similar temperature rise. In principle it would be feasible to introduce material into the upper atmosphere that would absorb either incoming light (thereby cooling the surface) or outgoing heat (thereby warming the surface). In practice, the rarified and windswept upper atmosphere, the material would disperse rather quickly, so the military use of such a technique would probably rely upon global rather than local effects...If a nation's meteorologists calculated that that a general warming or cooling of the earth was in their national interest, improving their climate while worsening others, the temptation to release materials from high-altitude rockets might exist."
-Gordon J. F. MacDonald, How to Wreck the Environment, in Unless Peace Comes: a scientific forecast of new weapons, Nigel Calder, Ed., 1968, page 183, 190-191.

David B. Chang and I-Fu Shih, “Stratospheric Welsbach seeding for reduction of global warming,” U.S. Patent 5,003,186, 26 Mar 1991. Assignee: Hughes Aircraft Company.

Mitchell, D. L., & Finnegan, W. (2009). Modification of cirrus clouds to reduce global warming. Environmental Research Letters, 4(4), 045102.

Greenhouse gases and cirrus clouds regulate outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) and cirrus cloud coverage is predicted to be sensitive to the ice fall speed which depends on ice crystal size. The higher the cirrus, the greater their impact is on OLR. Thus by changing ice crystal size in the coldest cirrus, OLR and climate might be modified. Fortunately the coldest cirrus have the highest ice supersaturation due to the dominance of homogeneous freezing nucleation. Seeding such cirrus with very efficient heterogeneous ice nuclei should produce larger ice crystals due to vapor competition effects, thus increasing OLR and surface cooling. Preliminary estimates of this global net cloud forcing are more negative than −2.8 Wm−2 and could neutralize the radiative forcing due to a CO2 doubling (3.7 Wm−2). A potential delivery mechanism for the seeding material is already in place: the airline industry. Since seeding aerosol residence times in the troposphere are relatively short, the climate might return to its normal state within months after stopping the geoengineering experiment. The main known drawback to this approach is that it would not stop ocean acidification. It does not have many of the drawbacks that stratospheric injection of sulfur species has.

Hulme, M. (2012). Climate change: Climate engineering through stratospheric aerosol injection. Progress in Physical Geography, 0309133312456414.

Chuang, C. C., Bergman, D., Dignon, J., & Connell, P. (2002). Final Report for LDRD Project “A New Era of Research in Aerosol/Cloud/Climate Interactions at LLNL”. LDRD-UCRL-ID 146980.

Observations of global temperature records seem to show less warming than predictions of global warming brought on by increasing concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. One of the reasonable explanations for this apparent inconsistency is that the increasing concentrations of anthropogenic aerosols may be partially counteracting the effects of greenhouse gases. Aerosols can scatter or absorb the solar radiation, directly change the planetary albedo. Aerosols, unlike CO2, may also have a significant indirect effect by serving as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Increases in CCN can result in clouds with more but smaller droplets, enhancing the reflection of solar radiation. Aerosol direct and indirect effects are a strong function of the distributions of all aerosol types and the size distribution of the aerosol in question. However, the large spatial and temporal variabilities in the concentration, chemical characteristics, and size distribution of aerosols have made it difficult to assess the magnitude of aerosol effects on atmospheric radiation. These variabilities in aerosol characteristics as well as their effects on clouds are the leading sources of uncertainty in predicting future climate variation.

Brahic, C. (2009). Top science body calls for geoengineering ‘plan B’. New Scientist, 203(2724), 10.

Reflective technologies could cool the planet within a year, and according to the Royal Society's findings the most promising method in terms of cost and effectiveness would be to pump sulphate particles into the stratosphere. However, this will not curb ocean acidification and other side effects of greenhouse emissions, and could disrupt weather patterns, so another method is required...There are signs that the field is increasingly being taken seriously at national and international levels...."It is clear that a lot of people are arguing that the IPCC should include an assessment of geoengineering in its next report," says Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and co-chair of one of the IPCC's three working groups. More worryingly, perhaps, military and naval representatives have also taken to attending research and policy workshops on the topic.

Vidal, J. (2012). Bill Gates backs climate scientists lobbying for large-scale geoengineering. The Guardian, 6.

"We will need to protect ourselves from vested interests [and] be sure that choices are not influenced by parties who might make significant amounts of money through a choice to modify climate, especially using proprietary intellectual property," said Jane Long, director at large for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US, in a paper delivered to a recent geoengineering conference on ethics...As well as Gates, other wealthy individuals including Sir Richard Branson, tar sands magnate Murray Edwards and the co-founder of Skype, Niklas Zennström, have funded a series of official reports into future use of the technology. Branson, who has frequently called for geoengineering to combat climate change, helped fund the Royal Society's inquiry into solar radiation management last year through his Carbon War Room charity. It is not known how much he contributed. Professors David Keith, of Harvard University, and Ken Caldeira of Stanford, are the world's two leading advocates of major research into geoengineering the upper atmosphere to provide earth with a reflective shield. They have so far received over $4.6m from Gates to run the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research (Ficer). Nearly half Ficer's money, which comes directly from Gates's personal funds, has so far been used for their own research, but the rest is disbursed by them to fund the work of other advocates of large-scale interventions.

Robock, A. (2008). 20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Vol.64, No.2, p.14-18,59.

1. Effects on regional climate. Geoengineering proponents often suggest that volcanic eruptions are an innocuous natural analog for stratospheric injection of sulfate aerosols...If scientists and engineers were able to inject smaller amounts of stratospheric aerosols than result from volcanic eruptions, how would they affect summer wind and precipitation patterns? Could attempts to geoengineer isolated regions (say, the Arctic) be confined there? Scientists need to investigate these scenarios. At the fall 2007 American Geophysical Union meeting, researchers presented preliminary findings from several different climate models that simulated geoengineering schemes and found that they reduced precipitation over wide regions, condemning hundreds of millions of people to drought....3. Ozone depletion. Aerosol particles in the stratosphere serve as surfaces for chemical reactions that destroy ozone in the same way that water and nitric acid aerosols in polar stratospheric clouds produce the seasonal Antarctic ozone hole....6. Effects of cirrus clouds. As aerosol particles injected into the stratosphere fall to Earth, they may seed cirrus cloud formations in the troposphere...Cirrus clouds affect Earth’s radiative balance of incoming and outgoing heat, although the amplitude and even direction of the effects are not well understood. While evidence exists that some volcanic aerosols form cirrus clouds, the global effect has not been quantified...7. Whitening of the sky (but nice sunsets). Atmospheric aerosols close to the size of the wavelength of light produce a white, cloudy appearance to the sky. They also contribute to colorful sunsets, similar to those that occur after volcanic eruptions. The red and yellow sky in The Scream by Edvard Munch was inspired by the brilliant sunsets he witnessed over Oslo in 1883, following the eruption of Krakatau in Indonesia. Both the disappearance of blue skies and the appearance of red sunsets could have strong psychological impacts on humanity...

Pidgeon, N., Corner, A., Parkhill, K., Spence, A., Butler, C., & Poortinga, W. (2012). Exploring early public responses to geoengineering. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 370(1974), 4176-4196.

Proposals for geoengineering the Earth's climate are prime examples of emerging or ‘upstream’ technologies, because many aspects of their effectiveness, cost and risks are yet to be researched, and in many cases are highly uncertain. This paper contributes to the emerging debate about the social acceptability of geoengineering technologies by presenting preliminary evidence on public responses to geoengineering from two of the very first UK studies of public perceptions and responses. The discussion draws upon two datasets: qualitative data (from an interview study conducted in 42 households in 2009), and quantitative data (from a subsequent nationwide survey (n=1822) of British public opinion). Unsurprisingly, baseline awareness of geoengineering was extremely low in both cases. The data from the survey indicate that, when briefly explained to people, carbon dioxide removal approaches were preferred to solar radiation management, while significant positive correlations were also found between concern about climate change and support for different geoengineering approaches. We discuss some of the wider considerations that are likely to shape public perceptions of geoengineering as it enters the media and public sphere, and conclude that, aside from technical considerations, public perceptions are likely to prove a key element influencing the debate over questions of the acceptability of geoengineering proposals.

Anshelm, J., & Hansson, A. (2014). Battling Promethean dreams and Trojan horses: Revealing the critical discourses of geoengineering. Energy Research & Social Science, 2, 135-144.

Macnaghten, P., & Szerszynski, B. (2013). Living the global social experiment: An analysis of public discourse on solar radiation management and its implications for governance. Global Environmental Change, 23(2), 465-474.

Carr, W. A., Preston, C. J., Yung, L., Szerszynski, B., Keith, D. W., & Mercer, A. M. (2013). Public engagement on solar radiation management and why it needs to happen now. Climatic change, 121(3), 567-577.

There have been a number of calls for public engagement in geoengineering in recent years. However, there has been limited discussion of why the public should have a say or what the public can be expected to contribute to geoengineering discussions. We explore how public engagement can contribute to the research, development, and governance of one branch of geoengineering, solar radiation management (SRM), in three key ways: 1. by fulfilling ethical requirements for the inclusion of affected parties in democratic decision making processes; 2. by contributing to improved dialogue and trust between scientists and the public; and 3. by ensuring that decisions about SRM research and possible deployment are informed by a broad set of societal interests, values, and framings. Finally, we argue that, despite the nascent state of many SRM technologies, the time is right for the public to participate in engagement processes.

Cairns, R. Climates of suspicion:‘chemtrail’conspiracy narratives and the international politics of geoengineering. Climate Geoengineering Governance Working Paper Series: 009.

Concurrent with growing academic and policy interest in ‘geoengineering’ the global climate in response to climate change, a more marginal discourse postulating the existence of a climate control conspiracy is also proliferating on the Internet. Here, the term ‘chemtrails’ is used interchangeably with the term geoengineering to describe the belief that the persistent contrails left by aeroplanes provide evidence that a secret programme of large scale weather and climate modification is on-going. Despite recent calls for greater appreciation of the diverse ways in which people conceive of and relate to ideas of climate control, and widespread acknowledgement of the importance of democratic public engagement in governance of geoengineering, the chemtrail conspiracy narrative has received very little attention in academic work to date. This paper builds on work highlighting the instability of the distinction between ‘conspiratorial’ versus ‘normal’ views, and examines conspiracy narratives as discourse rather than as pathologies (either psychological or sociological). A discourse analysis allows an exploration of parallel logics and concerns animating both the chemtrail narrative and wider discourses around climate and climate control. The analysis finds that while some elements of the chemtrail narrative do not lend themselves to democratic processes of deliberation, and potential for engagement with more mainstream discourse appears to be low, nevertheless, analysis of the chemtrail discourse offers some important insights for the politics of geoengineering....

However, conspiracy theory cannot be understood as false by definition, given the reoccurrence throughout history of plenty of examples of demonstrably real conspiracies. Given that conspiracies evidently can and do occur, the identification of persistent epistemological differences between conspiracy theories and other theories becomes in effect impossible, and distinguishing between a political analysis is neither ‘paranoid’ nor ‘naive’ is recognised as challenging. Awareness of the indeterminate epistemological characteristics of ‘conspiracy theory’, as well as the potential of the term to be used pejoratively as a means of ‘discrediting and stifling counter narratives’, has prompted various authors to problematize the term. According to Pelkmans and Machold, the term ‘conspiracy theory’ has more to do with the relationship of the claim in question to fields of power, than the content of the claim itself. As these authors point out, theories of conspiracy postulated by the powerful (such as the suggestion of the existence of a programme of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as justification for the U.S. led invasion of 2003) are never, even when demonstrably false, labelled as ‘conspiracy theories’. They stress that truth and untruth are produced in asymmetric fields of power and argue that ‘assessments of conspiracy theories should focus not on the epistemological qualities of these theories but on their interactions with the socio-political fields through which they travel...

Others have pointed to the ways in which even the conceptual rhetorics of social theory themselves have a ‘paranoid potential’. As Robinson argues, ‘the whole point of theory, of social science, is to uncover the forces and processes at work in the social universe which lie beneath -indeed epistemologically speaking, out of the range of- sensory perception’. Similarly conspiracy theorists are also ‘in the business of uncovering forces and processes lying just beyond sensory perception...The chemtrail belief hints at the probability that a program of solar geoengineering would have destabilising regional political effects, resonating with local political realities and suspicions of global economic powers. Likewise the moral outrage accompanying the chemtrail belief, based on the revulsion at the idea of powerful elites controlling the climate, is not something that can be dismissed as ‘irrational’. This is important to reflect upon, given the reality that powerful actors are currently discussing manipulating the global climate, and begs the question: is it necessarily more irrational to believe that the climate is being controlled, than to believe that one can control the climate?


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