Going Negative: The Next Horizon in Climate Engineering Law

Vol. 32 No. 4

Mr. Hester is a lecturer at the University of Houston Law Center in Houston, Texas. He may be reached at tdheste2@central.uh.edu. Mr. Gerrard is the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School, where he directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He may be reached at mgerra@law.columbia.edu.

As the global community struggles to turn the Paris Agreement’s commitments into meaningful emission reductions and the United States turbulently reverses its climate policies, the potential role of “negative emissions technologies” and other climate engineering approaches is drawing increasingly serious attention. These technologies are engineering on the grandest scale: climate engineering seeks to offset the effects of anthropogenic climate change by either altering the solar radiation reaching the earth’s surface or changing the composition of the atmosphere itself. Specifically, negative emissions technologies would directly remove greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the ambient air and help to remove accumulated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by historical emissions. After over a decade of debate, substantive research and planning associated with negative emissions technologies and solar radiation management have begun to inch forward. But this movement is happening in unexpected ways, and some of the most important decisions and commitments are occurring outside of the spotlight.

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Book: International Environmental Law: The Practitioner's Guide to the Laws of the Planet