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Geo-engineering, Governance, and Social-Ecological Systems: Critical Issues and Joint Research Needs

Victor Galaz, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden


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The debate about the possibilities to engineer the Earth's climate has changed drastically in the last years. Suggestions of large-scale technological interventions to combat climate change that a decade ago would have been discarded as science fiction are slowly moving into the center of international climate change discussions, research, and politics. In this article, I elaborate three joint key challenges to geo-engineering research from a resilience perspective, with a special emphasis on governance issues. First, I discuss the need to understand geo-engineering proposals from a “planetary boundaries” perspective. Second, I elaborate why the notion of Earth stewardship and geo-engineering are not necessarily in conflict, but instead could be viewed as complementary approaches. Last, I discuss the critical need to explore an institutional setting that is strong enough to weed out geo-engineering proposals that carry considerable ecological risk, but still allow for novelty, fail-safe experimentation, and continuous learning. These issues are critical for our understanding of how to effectively govern global environmental risks, complex systems, and emerging technologies in the Anthropocene.

Key words

Earth stewardship, geo-engineering, global environmental governance, innovation, planetary boundaries, resilience thinking

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087