New UCLA-Led Research to Focus on Potentials, Drawbacks of Climate Engineering Technologies

A new research project focusing on the potentials and drawbacks of climate engineering technologies will be headed by Edward Parson, the Dan and Rae Emmett Professor of Environmental Law at UCLA and co-director of the Emmett Institute. The project will be led by the UCLA School of Law's Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

Edward Parson - Co-Director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the UCLA School of Law. He is the Dan and Rae Emmett Professor of Environmental Law. credit: Aaron Salcido/Z�calo

Climate engineering includes a number of interventions that could help to offset harm caused by higher levels of greenhouse gases and subsequent climate change. Some examples include recapturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or power plants; or reflecting some sunlight to cool the Earth. Since the potential influences of such technologies are not properly understood, cross-international borders, international cooperation, and control are essential to monitor risks.

Climate engineering technologies have the potential to significantly reduce climate-related risks. They could also make climate risks worse or introduce serious new risks, depending on how they are developed, tested, used, and governed — and who gets to decide these things.

Parson

Numerous climate engineering methods have been propsed to either modify the movement of carbon through the Earth System or the the balance of incoming and outgoing heat. The ambitious global temperature targets specified at the 2015 Paris climate conference — maintaining global heating to 1.5 or 2 °C above the pre-industrial levels — will very likely require some kind of climate engineering to be attainable. Understanding the ways to control these technologies and limit the related risks is vital for effective and practical global climate policy.

The Emmett Institute project will study issues, including:

  • The risks and governance requirements presented by small-scale climate engineering research;
  • Global coordination and oversight of climate engineering projects;
  • The interaction of climate engineering with other key elements of climate policy, including adapting to changes and cutting emissions;
  • The steps needed to guarantee peaceful, competent and judicious global responses to future proposals to use climate engineering;
  • The implications, for risk and governance requirements, of possible regional variation in climate engineering effects.

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