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Deep Dive: Climate & Geo-Engineering

Deep Dive: Climate & Geo-Engineering

This deep dive is part of the Foresight towards the 2nd Strategic Plan of Horizon Europe project.


Climate change impacts are one of the main threats to human society and natural ecosystems. Even though natural dynamics also have a substantial effect on climate, there is no doubt that current alterations of climate with the correlated impacts are manmade. Alongside continuing efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, there may be possibilities to geoengineer climate systems to reduce or mask the impacts of climate change. There are also strong arguments for large-scale changes in social practices for adapting to and mitigating climate change. The big challenge comes with the necessary scale of interventions as those changes need to be large-scale and global, putting new challenges to all levels of governance from local to global.


About this topic

Many present drivers seem to indicate a gloomy future for the climate. The current individualistic mindsets drive overconsumption and overproduction. The offsetting of carbon emissions is sometimes used to compensate for dirty activities. Intense competition for natural resources is not safeguarding their sustainability. Bio-holistic worldviews confront anthropocentric views, but climate delay has emerged as the new denial and the lack of courage to address climate supremacists, i.e. the global wealthy, shows little change of direction. According to a 2020 report from Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute, the wealthiest top 1% were responsible for 15% of global emissions, nearly twice as much as the world’s poorest 50%, who were responsible for just 7%. Overly optimistic beliefs in tech or social transformation to solve it prevail, and there is a wide reluctance to consider broad system change.


There are also drivers towards desired futures. Improved understanding of climate and global change and the capacity and knowledge to purposefully shape nature and society provide better means to address climate change. Climate anxiety and perception of government inaction have triggered, for instance, the ‘Fridays for future’ movement, which contributes to the emergence of global conscience on the climate and biodiversity crisis and the need for justice. New understandings of human purpose and fairness also encourage the development of a wider range of responses like de-desertification, seaweed permaculture, ocean fertilization, carbon capture and storage, and solar radiation management. We may learn to protect the global commons, including indigenous cultures and atmospheric commons.


Economic growth in societies based on individual material gain, here-and-now-thinking, short political cycles, and lack of broad political agreement on alternative paths seem to keep us on the path to the climate crisis. Furthermore, exacerbated social inequalities may lead many to have no willingness or ability to participate in transitions. While we are overconfident with systems’ design, we underestimate natural forces and ecosystems. Emerging options for large-scale ‘geoengineering’ interventions in the climate system promise new opportunities and new risks, including novel geopolitical tensions.

There are diverse perceptions on geoengineering and possible social change towards potential acceptance or societal rejection. The planet lacks a fair and appropriate governance structure providing a framework on who might be entitled to carry out geoengineering projects in the name of the planet and what their responsibility is. There is no sufficient dialogue on what it means to be a responsible company, researcher, research organisation, or policy-maker in this context.

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EXTERNAL LINKS

OUTPUTS

Climate Change, R&I-Radical Options from Social Change to Geoengineering_Final report.pdf

Blog

Albert Norström

MEET THE EXPERTS

kerstin.cuhls

kerstin.cuhls

Prof. Dr.
Duncan McLaren

Duncan McLaren

Sirkku Juhola

Sirkku Juhola

Guest Writer
Totti Könnölä

Totti Könnölä

Foresight, Innovation & Sustainability
Benjamin Sovacool

Benjamin Sovacool

Albert Norström

Albert Norström

Guest Writer

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This foresight study aimed at supporting the development of the Strategic Plan of Horizon Europe (2025-2027), by providing early-stage strategic intelligence and sense-making that could contribute novel elements to the processes of strategic planning. The study, which was launched in mid-2021 and lasted almost two years, has been the most widely engaging foresight exercise yet aiming to support EU R&I policy. Through this broad engagement, the study did not only develop intelligence for the 2nd Strategic Plan of Horizon Europe but also contributed to the development of an EU R&I foresight community hosted by futures4europe.eu, one that is an asset for future R&I policies across Europe. The detailed description of the foresight work and the resulting outputs are available in the final report of the project.  The foresight process in support of the 2nd Strategic Plan comprised a wide spectrum of activities: As a reference point for the exploratory work, the explicit and implicit impact assumptions of the 1st Strategic Plan were identified and visualised with the help of a qualitative system analysis and modelling tool for causal loop analysis. An exploratory analysis of forward-looking sources (e.g. foresight reports, web-based horizon scanning) was conducted to identify relevant trends and signals of unexpected developments. These were discussed in online workshops and on the online platform www.futures4europe.eu. An outlook on emerging developments in the global and European context of EU R&I policy was developed drawing on a major online workshop in autumn 2021 with some 60 participants, experts and policy makers, who worked with multi-level context scenarios and specific context narratives about emerging disruptions. On that basis and in close consultation with the European Commission involving another major workshop in February 2022 which brought together 80 participants, Expert Teams were set up to develop disruptive scenarios in five areas of major interest. Each team ran several internal workshops but also involved further experts and Commission staff in their work, both through the online platform and through a final policy-oriented workshop. The foresight work within the five areas of interest resulted in deep dives on the following topics:                                               > Climate change, Research, and Innovation: Radical Options from Social Change to Geoengineering                       > Hydrogen Economy – A radical alternative                       > The EU in a Volatile New World - The challenge of global leadership                         > Global Commons                         > Transhumanist Revolutions Further areas of interest identified were explored through review papers aiming to capture major trends, developments and scenario sketches in relation to further disruptive developments:                       > Social Confrontations                         > Artificial General Intelligence: Issues and Opportunities                       > The Interpenetration of Criminal and Lawful Economic Activities                       > The Future of Health A third major workshop took place in October 2022 bringing together all the thematic strands of work and addressing possible R&I policy implications from this work. Participation in this workshop reached 250 individuals over 2 days. Building on the workshop, the online Dynamic Argumentative Delphi survey Research4Futures collected suggestions from almost 950 contributors from Europe and beyond about the implications of this foresight work for the priorities of EU R&I policy. This foresight study has been implemented through the Foresight on Demand framework contract, by a team of 40 experts. Partner organizations: Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) Institutul de Prospectiva (IP) Istituto di Studi per l’Integrazione dei Sistemi (ISINNOVA) Technopolis Group 4strat   Insight Foresight Institute (IFI) Arctik Fraunhofer ISI  About 300 additional experts contributed to the project through its numerous workshops that helped shape the scenarios and their policy implications. 

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