Can technology save the planet? As the impacts of the climate emergency become more severe and the timeline for action more restricted, more radical solutions – large-scale intervention in Earth’s climate – are being proposed. One of them is geoengineering, also called climate engineering or climate intervention.
Geoengineering is the technological intervention in the Earth’s climate, and includes low-risk activities such as large scale afforestation to higher-risk stratospheric aerosol methods. It is currently being advocated by some scientists as a response to climate change.
Youth have been at the forefront of climate justice movements but tend to be excluded from environmental policy-making discussions and decisions, and there have been few efforts to include young people’s perspectives in social science research about geoengineering. Geoengineering is at a sufficiently early stage that the needs and interests of different groups of people in different parts of the world can be recognised, and mechanisms built into decision-making to ensure that outcomes are distributed fairly (taking account of both spatial and temporal scales of justice).
This project aims to
- establish international interdisciplinary partnerships between academics (science/philosophy/geography education) and youth environmental networks to develop the capacity of young people to respond to proposed technological innovations;
- test online participative methods to generate an evidence base on youth responses to geoengineering science and the ethical, social and political questions that it raises;
- understand youth perceptions of the implications of geoengineering for climate and inter-generational justice.
Together with our project partners, we will facilitate series of four online workshops focusing on geoengineering and exploring the four key elements – science, ethics, politics and society.
Participants of the workshops will examine the social, ethical and political issues associated with geoengineering, and develop a youth vision for geoengineering to be shared with policymakers.
During four workshops, participants will:
- Learn about the potential and risks associated with engineering the Earth’s climate, and develop a position on geoengineering in relation to mitigation and adaptation;
- Build networks with other young people in Europe;
- Contribute to research on youth priorities for climate action;
- Develop capacity for collective action on climate change;
- Collaborate on a policy paper and geoengineering handbook which foreground youth perspectives and priorities.
24 April 2021
The purpose of this workshop was to establish a shared understanding of solar and carbon geoengineering technologies on land, sea, air, and space.
Participants were introduced to each other, and then to the context: that the climate crisis demands a response. Responses include adapting to the consequences of climate change and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and stabilizing the amount of these in the atmosphere (mitigation). The purpose of the workshop was to learn about a range of technological proposals currently being proposed and to examine these in the context of mitigation and adaptation.
Participants shared their priorities for learning and were then placed in groups (each with a facilitator attached) to research different geoengineering proposals. Over the course of the afternoon, they prepared a presentation and in the final session of the day, this was shared with the other groups.
In addition to building the sense of a team, these presentations formed the basis of knowledge for further discussion in the ethics, politics, and society workshops.
25 April 2021
The purpose of this workshop was to create and explore social and ethical questions associated with geoengineering and climate change.
The session started with a review of learning and questions remaining from the science workshop, and teambuilding in response to where participants stood on a range of contextual provocations such as ‘scientists are responsible for their inventions’, ‘politicians are better placed than scientists to make decisions about geoengineering’ and ‘Social solutions to climate change are more important than technoscientific solutions.’ There followed a series of mini-inquiries on questions including ‘can a molecule be bad?’, ‘does the Earth need a doctor?’ and ‘can young people change the world?’
We returned to geoengineering proposals to identify which principles are most important in tackling climate change and making decisions about the proposals. Principles identified included minimisation of harm, equity, responsibility and accountability, affordability, predictability of consequences and impacts, transparency of decision-making, prioritisation of mitigation, and tackling the root causes of climate change.
The workshop resulted in the production of a resource containing different types of questions for young people to discuss in relation to climate change and geoengineering. Questions include:
- Is climate change the biggest threat to the population?
- Is geoengineering a distraction from other climate measures?
- Is it possible to live without harming the planet?
- What is the best way to protect global ecosystems?
- How could different geoengineering methods impact society?
- Who would be responsible for geoengineering?…and who is accountable? How?
25 April 2021
8 May 2021
The purpose of the politics workshop was to identify and communicate key messages about geoengineering for young people and policy-makers.
The workshop started with a re-connecting exercise making a mural on key questions, concepts, conflicts, and feelings about geoengineering, and identifying important people and organisations for the work. Organisations identified included educational institutions, non-governmental organisations, think tanks, scientific advisory groups, governments, religious groups, international organisations, representations of civic society, and the most vulnerable people and groups in society.
We then identified what the youth guide and policy brief should include, how it should be structured, and the message to be communicated, and worked in groups to write, edit and refine the guide in a shared Google doc.
The aim of the guide was for to explain what geoengineering is, explain the link between geoengineering and the climate crisis and identify questions that need to be considered when taking a position on geoengineering.
9 May 2021
The purpose of the final workshop was to identify priority audiences and actions to disseminate the youth guide and policy brief.
We began with an opportunity quadrant to identify who to influence, events and opportunities for influencing, methods of influence, and challenges associated with actions planned and prioritized these actions. The goals identified included raising awareness, sharing information, campaigning for mitigation as a priority, and making connections between education, youth policy, and environmental policy.
Final edits were made to the policy brief, with an opportunity to work in new groups to edit and review the final text and make notes on how it should be presented. The session concluded with an in-depth reflection exercise on the methods and outcomes over the 4 sessions.
The workshop resulted in a youth guide and policy brief written by young people available here.
9 May 2021
Youth Guide and Policy Brief
Over the course of the workshops, youth participants co-wrote and produced a Youth Guide and Policy Brief on geoengineering. This resource was written by young people to inform their peers about geoengineering and to share youth views and perspectives with decision-makers.
The purpose of this guide is to introduce key ideas and questions about geoengineering in order to spark a conversation about intervention in the Earth’s climate system in the context of the range of possible responses to the climate crisis.
Download the full guide here