Séance du 15 mai 2012 du séminaire "Changement Climatique et Biosphère: expertises, futures et politiques". Séminaire animé par Amy Dahan, Hélène Guillemot, Christophe Bonneuil, les mardis, 14-18h au Centre Alexandre Koyré "Histoire des Sciences et Techniques" 27, Rue Damesme - Paris 13è

About 15 people, three presentations 40'+20', in English. Partenaires du projet REAGIR présents: Amy Dahan, Sophie Godin, Minh Ha-Duong

A Historical perspective on atmospheric egineering. A periodization.

Régis Briday, 4th year PhD student at Centre Alexandre Koyré, working on the history of global atmospheric chemistry, ozone depletion.

Régis takes the long historical perspective, as in J.R. Fleming's 2010 book "Fixing the sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control"


Period 1: 1890-1940

  • Mid 19th century, the concept of climate refers to the character of a specific place.
  • From the end of 19th, John Tyndall, Arrhenius and others recognized the importance of radiation balance in the climate.
  • Two main technological trajectories already distinguished: Solar Radiation Management and CO2 management
  • A positivist ideology: plant growth (=crop yields) stimulation
  • No enquiry on large scale ecosystems such as oceans (it's only a sink).
  • Only a minority of scientists were interested.
  • Political limits: belligerent states at the early 20th have different and shorter term goals
  • Scientific limits: few believe Humankind has the means to really change global environment.

Period 2: 1940-1965

  • WWII and cold war context.
  • Apogee of weather modification programs within the military-industrial-scientific complex.
  • Small but respectable scientific topic.
  • Regional scale: from fog dispersal at airfields to logistic chain and food supply disruption plans in enemy territory
  • Global scale: the idea emerges since the availability of The Bomb makes it technically possible. Example: Harry Wexler 1962.
  • Atmospheric engineering appears in international diplomatic talks. Example: JFK 1961 UN speech mentioning "Cooperative efforts in weather predictions and eventually weather control."
  • Also a time of global utopias, including terraforming Mars and Venus

Period 3: 1965-1990

  • Weather modification looses scientific respectability.
  • Some research carries on but the technology and the market are not there.
  • Environmental concerns rise and give more weight to uncertainty and risks, as well as transparency. Military lack of transparency does not help.
  • Operation Popeye to seed monsoon clouds over the Ho Chi Minh trail (1967-1972 "make mud, not war") led to a UN treatise banning military weather modification: the Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD), formally the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques.
  • Discussions on global biochemichal cycles manipulation remained on the agenda - ocean fertilization for example. Always linked with global change and risk, but in the early 80's with a spirit of optimism.

Period 4: 1990-now

  • The catastrophist argument: "Geoengineering, we may need it."
  • The necessity for international consensus and cooperation is questioned.
  • Moratorium on ocean fertilization in 2008.
  • Growing weight in diplomacy and scientific literature.

Critique of Keith (2000) article:

DK says GE is similar to that was called climate modification in the cold war, but ignores the belligerent past of the concept, and is not concerned about the amount of sustained international cooperation needed. Proponents argue that GE is allowed by and may be necessary for a sustained economic growth. GE suffers from same uncertainties as climate system modeling. IPCC included few GE in its assessments, and the National Academy of Science did not talk about it much after its 92 report.


  • Eva: Is that science fiction or do we have real-world cases ?
  • Amy: The latests IPCC round include a negative emissions scenario.
  • : UK funded a demonstration project with a pipe and a baloon to look at stratospheric aerosols injection feasibility.
  • : There is a controversy on wether we can test it small scale without deploying it.
  • : For Wexley it was an intellectual exercise, as head of the USA Weather Bureau he wrote on everything.

Making climate change governable: carbon accounting as geo-engineering or self-engineering?

Eva Lövbrand, Centre for climate science and policy research, Linköping University, Sweden.

1. Why carbon accounting is not geoengineering in conventional terms

  • Engineering the climate can be seen as a miracle big technofix. That is not what I look at.
  • Carbon accounting is a diverse set of day to day techniques, methods and tools to account for carbon emissions.
  • They operate on a range of geographical and political scales, from intergovernmental to individual.
  • They make the climate change issue legible.
  • My overall research field is 'the how' of Climate Governmnentality.
  • This mode of analysis is born out of Foucault's rethinking of political power and modern European rule in the late 70's.
  • I use a broad understanding of "government" as "the conduct of conduct", not limited to States.
  • We look at analytics of government: ways of seeing, perceiving, producing truth, acting...
  • We look at rationalities of government (knowledge and styles of thinking, see above) + technologies (social tools, practices)

2. Analytics of carbon accounting

2.1. Globalizing the climate

  • Carbon accounting practices has made climate governable.
  • From mid 60s to late 80s, the term "climate" changed from a local to a global meaning in science.
  • That change was brought about by GCMs.
  • Its iconic illustrations are Keeling's CO2 at Mauna Loa curve and Vostock's ice core CO2 records
  • Its social consequences are the establishment of in ICRP, IPCC and other international science networks.
  • UNFCCC Article 2 establishes CO2 as the metric (HDM note: pas d'accord, la convention est en GHG ce sont les accounting guidelines qui ont adopté la métrique CO2 equivalent (CO2e) )

2.2- Territorializing global carbon flows

  • IPCC and the SBSTA have developped the standardised reporting guidelines since 1996.
  • National communication make comparison and allocation of responsibility possible.
  • This has been central in the responsability discussions.
  • Reporting is done both gas by gas and agregated, using CO2e
  • China is now 1st, but the concept of "major emiters" was critiqued by Agarwal et Narain 1991: agregate emissions matter less than per capita emissions, luxury emissions matter less than survival emissions, and net emissions should deduce natural sinks allocated proportionally to population (HDM note: also, one should account for exports of carbon in industrial goods):
  • Anil Agarwal, Sunita Narain (1991) Global Warming in an Unequal World: A Case of Environmental Colonialism. Centre for Science and Environment (New Delhi, India) 36 pp.

2.3- Mobilizing responsible carbon subject

Individual C accounting techniques have profilerated in the last 10 years. YOU can measure your carbon footprint and make smart, responsible choices (then buy our offsets).

3. Carbon accounting as governmentality

Perhaps carbon accounting techniques open the door for climate engineering


  • Me: Governmentality should look not only at the rules but also at how people cheat.
  • Me: Trust problems: 1/ individuals have no access to the real ETS and 2/ CO2 markets are not trustworthy, even the ETS is corrupted.
  • Me: Definite Yes to 3. As an economist, I think a working CO2 market is necessary and sufficient for socially efficient use of (or rejection of) CCS and air capture.
  • Amy: The collective learning about CO2 accounting is a (the?) successfull point of the 20-year UNFCCC process. Guidelines 'r good. But that was not enough to reduce emissions. Was that because we focused on an end of pipe approach ?
  • Amy: Rockstrom et al., as well as your talk, lack any intergovernmental politics. The analysis also miss the scale between individual and international.
  • Q: Why governmentality and not governance ?
  • A: Yes, governance is the dominant mode of discussion of climate policy, and it includes nonstate actors. But my approach focuses less on actors in a zero-sum power game, and more on performative practices.

Issues of scale and ignorance in geo-engineering.

Ocean fertilization, aerosol albedo enhancement and the role of the Convention on Biological Diversity in issue articulation Mieke van Hemert, Postdoc at IFRIS-CAK with Amy Dahan.

GE emerged in the public policy discourse in 2009 with two key events:

2/ Copenhagen failure

Provided a window of opportunity for GE advocates, "It's a fiasco, let's think seriously about plan B we may need it". Emergence of a geo-engineering discourse stating that Solar Radiation Management (SRM) is cheap.

The red Royal Society report "Geoengineering the climate".

  • The RS commitee recommends researching the GE option for 10M£ / yr for 10 years.
  • The RS commitee provides an affordability and effectiveness map (RS 2009, p. 49) to compare various GE techs.
  • CO2 capture from the air seen as most promising and safe option
  • Urban surface albedo seen as low affordability and effectiveness (HDM note: UK bias ! Cool roofs have been the traditional construction mode in all mediteranean countries for ages, even Detroit is interested)
  • The RS commitee regarding risk and uncertainty: It's ignorance rather than risk. PP applies. No moratoria but codes of conduct. Weight GE risks against CC risks. (Note HDM: C'est contradictoire avec le premier point !)
  • That position is in line with today's ideas on the governance of emerging energy technologies.

Codes of conducts:

Oxford principles on geoengineering:

  1. Principle 1: Geoengineering to be regulated as a public good.
  2. Principle 2: Public participation in geoengineering decision-making
  3. Principle 3: Disclosure of geoengineering research and open publication of results
  4. Principle 4: Independent assessment of impacts
  5. Principle 5: Governance before deployment

Asilomar 2.0 "principles for research"

Asilomar Scientific Organizing Committee (ASOC), 2010. The Asilomar Conference Recommendations on Principles for Research into Climate Engineering Techniques, Climate Institute, Washington DC, 20006.

SRMGI (2011) Solar radiation management: the governance of research

Proctor (2008) typology of ignorance

  1. The not yet known. Science as a frontier.
  2. The neglected (un)knowns. Ignorance as a lost realm.
  3. The not to be known. Actively maintained ignorance.

Concernant la fertilisation des océans par le fer (OIF)

  • 2007: The Planktos company announced its intention to fertilize 10.000 km² and then more, and sell CO2 offsets.
  • 2008: Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agree to a moratorium on large scale experiments and commercial operations.
  • 2008-04: Planktos lays off all personnel
  • 2010: IOC's consensus report summarizes a persisting diversity of views
  • DWR Wallace, CS Law, PW Boyd, Y Collos, P Croot, K Denman, PJ Lam, U Riebesell, S Takeda, & P Williamson: 2010. Ocean Fertilization. A Scientific Summary for Policy Makers. IOC/UNESCO, Paris (IOC/BRO/2010/2).

Concernant le Solar Radiation Management (SRM) par l'injection de particules stratosphériques

  • Mount Pinatubo eruption injected 10 Tg of S in the stratosphere
  • Injecting 1-5 Tg/yr to increase planetary albedo seem consistent with offseting 2xCO2
  • According to DK: Known risks appear small but unanticipated risks are concerns.
  • Those including: Moonson regime changes, O3 layer, international equity.
  • There is a discourse on risks trade offs and optimization.
  • There is a controversy on wether meaningful testing can be done without full scale deployment
  • There is an argument to work only from "natural experiments"
  • The STS (Science Technology Society) results on the difference between field and lab experimentation.

Personal toughts

  • Was there a RS comitee CCS bias caused by the industry or from technology maturity lifecycle effects ?
  • This Geoengineering research is "blind and elephants". Some think about CCS, some air capture, SRM, OIF...
  • There is also a confusion of timescales
  • Some presenters and attendees had "ad hominem" critiques, up to questioning competency and attributing baseless words and intentions to geoengineering researchers. That's you, David !