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WIREs Clim Change
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A review of climate geoengineering appraisals

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Abstract Deliberate large‐scale interventions in the Earth's climate system—known collectively as ‘geoengineering’—have been proposed in order to moderate anthropogenic climate change. Amidst a backdrop of many ways of framing the supposed normative rationales for or against their use, geoengineering proposals are undergoing serious consideration. To support decision makers in the multitude of governance considerations a growing number of appraisals are being conducted to evaluate their pros and cons. Appraisals of geoengineering are critically reviewed here for the first time using a systematic literature search and screen strategy. Substantial variability between different appraisals' outputs originates from usually hidden framing effects relating to contextual and methodological choices. Geoengineering has largely been appraised in contextual isolation, ignoring the wider portfolio of options for tackling climate change—spanning mitigation and adaptation—and creating an artificial choice between geoengineering proposals. Most existing appraisal methods do not adequately respond to the post‐normal scientific context in which geoengineering resides and show a strong emphasis on closed and exclusive ‘expert‐analytic’ techniques. These and other framing effects invariably focus—or close down—upon particular sets of problem definition, values, assumptions, and courses of action. This produces a limited range of decision options which seem preferable given those framing effects that are privileged, and could ultimately contribute to the closing down of governance commitments. Emergent closure around particular geoengineering proposals is identified and argued to be premature given the need for more anticipatory, responsible, and reflexive forms of governing what is an ‘upstream’ domain of scientific and technological development. WIREs Clim Change 2012, 3:597–615. doi: 10.1002/wcc.197 This article is categorized under: Social Status of Climate Change Knowledge > Climate Science and Decision Making

Frequency of different geoengineering proposals featured in the appraisals reviewed. Note: ‘other’ geoengineering proposals are those featured only once. Supplementary appraisals (i.e., the participatory appraisals undertaken by the Royal Society1 and GAO5 in addition to their primary expert‐analytic appraisals) are counted here as separate appraisals.

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Breadth of inputs and openness of outputs in geoengineering appraisals (after Stirling et al.8). Bold numbers represent participatory appraisals; bold, bracketed numbers represent expert‐participatory appraisals; and plain numbers represent expert‐analytic appraisals. Note: numbers are in ascending chronological order and relate to appraisals in Table 2. Appraisal positions in the grid are necessarily interpretative, and not definitive but indicative. Appraisal breadth was assessed as either low or high in a 2 × 2 matrix in relation to the scope with which appraisals accounted for the character of the decision context and the diversity of legitimate knowledges; then positioned relative to one another within a 3 × 3 sub‐matrix. Appraisal openness was assessed as either low or high in a 2 × 2 matrix in relation to the reflexivity with which instrumental framing conditions are conveyed and outputs made, then positioned relative to one another within a 3 × 3 sub‐matrix.

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