Climate Politics, Capitalism, and the Governance of Solar Radiation Management

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal II (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Jean Philippe SAPINSKI, Department of Sociology, University of Oregon, USA
In recent years, the conversation around geoengineering as a last resort but feasible option to curb global warming has exploded. Currently, discussions point to solar radiation management (SRM) technologies – a set of interventions that aim to reflect part of the sun’s heat away from earth – as the most likely candidates to rapidly and cheaply curb surface warming. Social science scholars are actively seeking international governance mechanisms that would allow experimental research to proceed without transgressing thresholds of social acceptability, and that could provide a blueprint for governing eventual SRM deployment.

A profound division among capitalist interests underpins for a good part the current deadlock in UN climate negotiations. On the one hand, fossil capitalist interests have actively blocked climate policy both internationally and for individual states. On the other hand, a ‘climate capitalist’ coalition has promoted carbon trading, carbon taxes and climate finance to address global warming through the ecological modernization of the neoliberal regime. How do these divergent capitalist factions position themselves regarding the possibility of geoengineering in general, and SRM in particular? In this presentation, I will use social network analysis to map out emerging SRM governance networks. This will allow to investigate whether SRM and other geoengineering proposals might provide the grounds for a broader climate policy compromise poised to rally both climate capitalist and fossil capitalist interests, and the role of the capitalist state in developing such a consensus.