Open questions in STS and geoengineering

Gabriel Dorthe (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies)
Stefan Schäfer (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies)
Confluence, collaboration and intersection
Frankland Lecture Theatre (Faraday Complex)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

A strong body of STS scholarship has begun to question the speculative and controversial proposal that geoengineering Earth's climate might be a good idea. This panel aims at exploring areas of inquiry that STS is yet to tackle.

Long abstract:

Existing STS scholarship seeks to open up geoengineering to deliberation by a broader set of publics, expose and question dominant framings, and examine public discourses and sense-making. We welcome contributions that extend and transcend existing lines of inquiry, for example in the following areas: Techno-fixes rely on a particular problem diagnosis. How are geoengineering research and governance co-produced with knowledge of climate futures? How are geoengineering technologies endowed with attributes that allow for cost-benefit-calculations, estimations of effectiveness and side-effects, and prognoses of harms? How do geoengineering futures come to be known, and how do they highlight some uncertainties while obfuscating others? A founding myth of the current wave of geoengineering research is that the scientific community shied away from geoengineering until Paul Crutzen "broke the taboo" in 2006. Today, one frequently encounters claims that it is impossible to clearly distinguish between climate science and geoengineering research, and that restrictive governance of geoengineering research would therefore unduly restrict climate science. How do such dynamics of normalization affect the field and its political handling? Geoengineering does not promise salvation from disease or hunger—its seductive power stems from a sense that the future could be made somewhat less catastrophic than expected. How does this economy of promises shape scientific and political discourses? Which threatened populations are promised protection, and how? How are these promises made sense of by those whom they posit as beneficiaries? Is STS research itself contributing to a stabilization of contentious definitions and a normalization of speculative promises?