Towards a Non-Use Regime on Solar Geoengineering: Lessons from International Law and Governance

Aarti Gupta*, Frank Biermann, Ellinore van Driel, Nadia Bernaz, Dhanasree Jayaram, Rakhyun E. Kim, Louis J. Kotzé, Dana Ruddigkeit, Stacy D. VanDeveer, Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

In recent years, some scientists have called for research into and potential development of ‘solar geoengineering’ technologies as an option to counter global warming. Solar geoengineering refers to a set of speculative techniques to reflect some incoming sunlight back into space, for example, by continuously spraying reflective sulphur aerosols into the stratosphere over several generations. Because of the significant ecological, social, and political risks posed by such technologies, many scholars and civil society organizations have urged governments to take action to prohibit the development and deployment of solar geoengineering techniques. In this article we take such calls for a prohibitory or a non-use regime on solar geoengineering as a starting point to examine existing international law and governance precedents that could guide the development of such a regime. The precedents we examine include international prohibitory and restrictive regimes that impose bans or restrictions on chemical weapons, biological weapons, weather modification technologies, anti-personnel landmines, substances that deplete the ozone layer, trade in hazardous wastes, deep seabed mining, and mining in Antarctica. We also assess emerging norms and soft law in anticipatory governance of novel technologies, such as human cloning and gene editing. While there is no blueprint for a solar geoengineering non-use regime in international law, our analysis points to numerous specific elements on which governments could draw to constrain or impose an outright prohibition on the development of technologies for solar geoengineering, should they opt to do so.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransnational Environmental Law
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Feb 2024

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