Geoengineering under a climate emergency

Geoengineering under a climate emergency:
Exploring governance pathways and pitfalls

Master research paper. Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo, 2010.

After receiving feedback for my master research paper (MRP) in January, 2010, I wrapped up my Master of Arts degree in Global Governance. The only thing left is to actually receive it, which will happen on 17 June.

Here is my MRP, then, finally. The MRP was the major accomplishment of the master, and though it is shorter than a thesis, it still ended up at 70 pages (of text — 92 pages altogether). I wrote about what I was planning to cover in my MRP a year ago, and the final paper isn’t far off the mark, though I chose to de-emphasise securitisation and write more about governance.

I will blog about this topic shortly–give a condensed version of the MRP–but here is the abstract. The paper is available for download in its entirety on the right.


Geoengineering has been advanced as a possible emergency option to sudden and disruptive climate change—a climate emergency. This paper advances the nascent geoengineering governance discourse, looking specifically on issues and challenges relating to how geoengineering can be used as a remedial option in case of a climate emergency.

The main contribution of this paper is the examination of six potential governance alternatives for geoengineering, assessed according to three fundamental characteristics that the paper argues any geoengineering regime must evince, to wit, holism, adaptability and legitimacy. Using path-dependency theory, it further explores how the current parochialism and fragmentation in global governance could affect the long-term development of the geoengineering discourse, before finally looking at how unilateral geoengineering could result from a global discourse on catastrophic climate change gone astray.

High levels of complexity, risk and uncertainty are inherent in both climate change and geoengineering and present substantial obstacles in the development of geoengineering governance. The fundamental question of this paper is how we can foster robust and resilient governance and responses for climate change and other environmental problems.