Earth’s climate appears to be changing faster than previously observed. Even with active mitigation and adaptation measures, additional efforts to avoid significant climate disruptions may be needed. Geoengineering the climate is an option that is now gaining scientific, policy, and public attention while raising important environmental, ethical, social, and political challenges.

This policy brief, issued by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), its Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), offers an introduction to the science of geoengineering and identifies key issues that must be addressed, including:

  • Who will be involved in making decisions about geoengineering?
  • When would geoengineering deployment be appropriate?
  • How to ensure equity in the global commons?
  • And is there a moral hazard? Could geoengineering discourage nations and industries from reducing their carbon emissions by giving them the wrong impression that there is a simpler and cheaper alternative?
  • How should we deal with liability and compensation if things go wrong?

The policy brief also suggests a way forward: carefully weighing the risks of both action and inaction on geoengineering; engaging the public on a global level; and building towards an international governance to ensure that research into global climate modification
is conducted responsibly and transparently, and that potential benefits and risks are equitably distributed.

Download the policy brief (PDF, 1.3MB)