Handbook of Global Environmental Politics, Second Edition
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Handbook of Global Environmental Politics, Second Edition

Edited by Peter Dauvergne

The second edition of this Handbook contains more than 30 new and original articles as well as six essential updates by leading scholars of global environmental politics. This landmark book maps the latest theoretical and empirical research in this energetic and growing field. Captured here are the pioneering and lively debates over concerns for the health of the planet and how they might best be addressed.
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Chapter 35: The Global Politics of Geoengineering

David Humphreys


David Humphreys In August 2010 the Oxford University Press announced the words that would appear for the first time in the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English. Making its debut – alongside “credit crunch,” “microblogging,” and “vuvuzela” (the shrill horn that was the sound of the 2010 football World Cup) – was “geoengineering,” defined as “the deliberate large-scale manipulation of environmental process that affects the earth’s climate, in an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming.”1 While its inclusion represented a coming of age of sorts, marking a recognition of the widespread use of the term, geoengineering remains an idea rather than an actually existing strategy or set of practices. Nonetheless, many scientists and policy-makers are concluding that with the increasing unlikelihood that mitigation measures will occur fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate change it is now time to think of a “Plan B.” Climate change can be understood as a process that takes place due to changes in two main variables: atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and the albedo, or reflectivity, of the planet. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and water vapor, trap long-wave radiation, leading to climatic warming. They do not trap incoming short-wave solar radiation or short-wave radiation reflected from highly reflective surfaces, such as ice sheets, which have a high albedo. Albedo is a quantitative measure of the radiation reflected from a body or surface on a scale from 0 to 1. A perfect black surface absorbs...

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