2013 CCLR 101 (2013)
Climate Engineering Research: A Precautionary Response to Climate Change

handle is hein.journals/cclr2013 and id is 109 raw text is: Climate Engineering Research:
A Precautionary Response to Climate Change?
Jesse L. Reynolds and Floor Fleurke*
In the face of dire forecasts for anthropogenic climate change, climate engineering is
increasingly discussed as a possible additional set of responses to reduce climate
change's threat. These proposals have been controversial, in part because they - like
climate change itself - pose uncertain risks to the environment and human well-being.
Under these challenging circumstances of potential catastrophe and risk-risk trade-off
it is initially unclear to what extent precaution is applicable. We examine what precau-
tion is and is not, and make a prima facie case that climate engineering may provide
means to reduce climate risks. When precaution is applied to the currently pertinent
matter of small to moderate scale climate engineering field tests, we conclude that
precaution encourages them, despite their potential risks.

1. Introduction
The likely impacts of anthropogenic climate change
on humans and the environment are vast. Mitigat-
ing the risks through greenhouse gas emissions
abatement requires overcoming an extremely chal-
lenging collective action problem. However, efforts
thus far to reduce these risks have been disappoint-
As the evidence and probable severity of climate
risks have mounted, a wider range of options is now
being considered. Efforts toward emissions abate-
ment were the first global response, and then adapt-
ing society and ecosystems to new climates became
a second legitimate category of action. Now, propos-
als to develop the means to intentionally intervene
on massive scales in global physical, chemical, and
biological systems in order to counterbalance cli-
mate change are being seriously discussed. While
diverse, these proposed climate engineering (CE)

* Jesse L. Reynolds, M.S. is a Ph.D. candidate and Floor Fleurke,
Ph.D. is assistant professor for European environmental law, both
in the Department of European and International Public Law,
Faculty of Law, University ofTilburg, The Netherlands. Correspon-
dence can be directed to J.L.Reynolds@uvt.ni.
1 Daniel Bodansky, May We Engineer the Climate?, 33 Climatic
Change (1996), 309, at 312.

or geoengineering methods are controversial for
several reasons, including the contention that
they pose uncertain but potentially serious risks to
humans and the environment.
In debates over CE, precaution is often invoked.
Daniel Bodansky predicted that precaution would
be invoked frequently and loudly at the inter-
national level and possibly contribute to an inter-
national prohibition.' The Conference of Parties to
the Convention on Biological Diversity cited the
precautionary approach in a nonbinding advisory
statement against CE activities that may affect
biodiversity.2 Moreover detractors of CE also often
cite precaution as a rationale for opposing CE
research and/or deployment.3 However, in this
article, we assert that a precautionary approach
favours improving knowledge about CE options
through research, including field experiments, but
in a manner that recognizes risks.

2 Decision X/33.8(w), Biodiversity and Climate Change: Report of
the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention
on Biological Diversity, UN Doc. UNEP/CBD/COP/10/27,
20 January 2011.
3 See, e.g., ETC Group, The ABCs of Ensuring Precaution on
Geoengineering, 5 October 2010, available on the Internet at
ETC4COP1 _fina4web.pdf> (last accessed on 6 March 2013).

CCLR 2|2013

Climate Engineering Research | 101

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