Risks climate engineering are manageable

The concerns about regulating climate engineering are out of proportion, states Jesse Reynolds on the grounds of his PhD research. He will defend his thesis at Tilburg University on September 22nd. Reynolds proposes to set up an international institution to facilitate and help regulate climate engineering field experiments worldwide.

Climate change presents one of society’s greatest challenges, but efforts thus far to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been disappointing. Some scientists are thus considering large scale interventions in natural systems in order to counter climate change. For example, fine mist could be injected into the upper atmosphere which, like large volcanoes, would cool the planet. However, these so-called “climate engineering” proposals pose their own risks to humans and environment.

Reynolds explored how climate engineering and its large-scale field research are presently regulated, as well as how they could be in the future. His research is centred in international environmental law but draws from international relations and economics. Importantly, he bears in mind that such climate engineering techniques are proposed as potential means to reduce the risks from climate change.

Contrary to his expectations, Reynolds found that international environmental law appears to favour climate engineering research. He concludes that the widespread concern that considering climate engineering would undermine cuts in greenhouse gas emissions may not present a major challenge. Reynolds suggests that an international institution would be beneficial, both to facilitate and to help regulate climate engineering field experiments.

Jesse Reynolds (1974, USA) has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and environmental sciences from Hampshire College and a master’s degree in environmental policy from the University of California, Berkeley. He completed his PhD in the Department of European and International Public Law of Tilburg Law School. Reynolds will conduct postdoctoral research at the same department, and in the fall will be a visiting scholar at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Note for editors

Title PhD dissertation: The International Regulation of Climate Engineering. Supervisors: Prof. Han Somsen, prof. Jonathan Verschuuren (Tilburg Law School). For more information, please contact Jesse Reynolds at tel. +31 13 466 3530 / e-mail j.l.reynolds@tilburguniversity.edu.