Beyond calculation - Climate Engineering risks from a social sciences perspective

Dorothee Amelung, Wolfgang Dietz, Hannes Fernow, Daniel Heyen, David Reichwein, Thilo Wiertz


Decisions in the context of Climate Engineering (CE), the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the Earth’s climate, are decisions made under uncertainty. CE options are associated with a broad range of environmental and societal risks that raise complex questions: How can the risks be assessed and evaluated when balanced against the risks of alternative strategies to counteract climate change? What are the strategic implications for climate politics against the background of insufficient scientific knowledge? Can we estimate the ethical implications of the risks involved for society? Uncertainties and risks represent a central aspect of the issue but cannot be reduced to the traditional technical orientation of risk terminologies. The article elaborates on the specific characteristics of the risks and uncertainties associated with CE technology from six different disciplinary viewpoints. It thereby seeks to reveal chances for a mutual enrichment of these individual viewpoints since each discipline experiences boundaries while examining the complex risks of CE. In this way, the article redefines disciplinary boundaries without entirely dissolving them and without disregarding the valuable contribution every individual viewpoint can make. This aim is realized by means of the identification of new approaches to central questions regarding the risks and uncertainties involved in CE that can only be addressed from an interdisciplinary perspective.


climate engineering; climate change; solar radiation management; carbon dioxid removal; complex problems; risk; uncertainty; governance; international law; moral hazard;


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