By Shuchi Talati, Founder & Executive Director
I learned about the concept of solar geoengineering almost 15 years ago. Over that time, there has been a deep taboo surrounding this topic within the climate community. But with climate impacts more severe, frequent and clear, and an entirely inadequate response, there is a palpable shift happening. More research is happening, and more governments are beginning to consider what role solar geoengineering might play.
The drive to limit harm from climate change is common ground we all share. The reason I work in the solar geoengineering space, and the reason many work in this field, is that it may have the potential to limit human suffering. This should be the only reason to consider the use of such a technology. At the moment though, we don’t yet know whether or not solar geoengineering could play such a role. This is true of the science, but also because we don’t yet know what many climate vulnerable communities want.
Decisions around solar geoengineering cannot be made in ways that speak on behalf of others, exacerbate injustices, or violate human rights. This is true at opposite ends of the advocacy spectrum. It would be unjust and unacceptable to try to shut down discussion at this moment, before frontline communities even have a chance to consider what role solar geoengineering could play if any. It would likewise be unacceptable to attempt to deploy solar geoengineering in a unilateral way without any input, engagement or involvement of those with the most to gain or lose from such an action. To be clear, people should be empowered to speak for themselves, and that is not the case right now. The dominant narratives about solar geoengineering are not written collectively.
We are at a very clear inflection point, where solar geoengineering does not yet exist and the future of the field is yet to be written – but interest is growing. Regardless of what some might say, it is not inevitably destined for failure, nor is it inevitably going to lead to good outcomes. Absolute claims about solar geoengineering risk creating the impression that we know enough about how it could work to move ahead or to reject it outright, or that we know enough about whether people, particularly people on the frontlines of climate impacts and climate injustice, want it considered or not. But there is a narrow window of opportunity to shape the future of solar geoengineering – the idea, the research, the politics, the governance – in a way that advances justice. Solar geoengineering has the potential to be an important additional tool to reduce human suffering from climate change, and it has the potential to worsen it.
Ideal governance systems don’t exist in any field or in any country. I founded DSG in the context of an imperfect world to work towards creating inclusive systems around solar geoengineering governance to make strides in the direction of justice. Getting to any version of good governance requires building and sharing knowledge, elevating marginalized and vulnerable voices, and not assigning agendas. I’m incredibly excited for the opportunity to try and build more collaborations, partnerships, and inclusion in a space that has remained exclusive for too long.