Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics

Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics

The Anthropocene Gap

Victor Galaz

We live on an increasingly human-dominated planet. Our impact on the Earth has become so huge that researchers now suggest that it merits its own geological epoch - the 'Anthropocene' - the age of humans. Combining theory development and case studies of 'planetary boundaries', emerging infectious diseases, financial markets and geoengineering, this groundbreaking book explores the 'Anthropocene Gap' otherwise known as society's current failure to address the most profound environmental challenges of our times.

Chapter 5: Engineering the planet

Victor Galaz

Subjects: environment, climate change, energy policy and regulation, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy, innovation and technology, technology and ict


Imagine a room with climate change and biodiversity experts discussing the future of planet Earth. Or more precisely, whether it might be justifiable to deploy so-called geoengineering technologies which rapidly could cool the planet, but with considerable and unquantifiable environmental risks. As the discussions unfold over several cups of coffee, and effortlessly move between ethical, technical and political dimensions, one of the experts raises his voice irritably. The very foundations of the discussions are now being questioned. 'Surely the comparison can't be between a world where massive geoengineering technologies are deployed, and an ideal world where humanity suddenly manages to drastically cut emission of greenhouse gases? The fair comparison is between a world moving towards a catastrophic +3°C to +4°C increase in global mean temperature, and one where the global community strategically mitigate some of its worst impacts through geoengineering interventions. If we frame the comparison in that way: which alternative would be most beneficial for biodiversity, ecosystems and humans?' There was a moment of complete silence. And I know this because the discussion did in fact take place in London, at an expert meeting hosted by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in June 2011. In this chapter, I elaborate the intriguing governance challenges created by the development of geoengineering technologies - another illuminating example of the 'Anthropocene Gap'.

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