Questioning the Geoengineering Scientific Worldview

By Paula Curvelo.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies

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Over the last few years, geoengineering, or the ‘deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system, in order to moderate global warming’, has attracted increasing attention among strategies to limit the impact and consequences of climate change. However, the understanding of the physical science basis of geoengineering is still limited, and there are still major uncertainties concerning the impacts these technologies might have on human and natural systems. The self-assertive invasion of nature’s various domains, the scale and complexity of the technoscientific tasks involved, the unpredictable long-term impacts of geoengineering actions, and the huge uncertainties that these proposals raise point to a shift in the nature of human action that requires a commensurate ethics of foresight and responsibility. If there is a decision to embark on such an ambitious project, a major effort should be made to scrutinise and gain a deeper understanding of the geoengineering scientific worldview. In fact, the full meaning of geoengineering proposals can only be grasped in the context of the larger social imaginary of science and technology in which geoengineering narratives are rooted. In this paper, two different contextual frameworks from which to address these issues are presented and analysed. The first represents the mainstream Earth System Science perspective, while the second corresponds to an alternative view from the field of social studies of science and technology. Central to both is the concept of an ‘epochal break’. In the former, this is in terms of the Human-Earth relationship, in the latter, in terms of the relationship between science, technology and society. It is hoped that this approach may contribute to clearing the path towards more open and critical reflection about the competing interests, values and assumptions of climate engineering proposals.

Keywords: Geoengineering, Climate Engineering, Earth System Science, Anthropocene, Technoscience, Epochal Break

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.35-53. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 285.889KB).

Paula Curvelo

Doctoral Candidate, European Commission – Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy

Paula Curvelo is a Ph.D student at the University of Lisbon. Since September 2010, she has been developing her research activities in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at the European Commission – Joint Research Centre.*