Futuribles Journal n° 373

Recherche, sciences, techniques - Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement

Shaping the Planetary Climate? The Prospects for Climate Engineering


For several years now, global warming has occupied a leading place in the list of major challenges humanity has to confront and is, therefore, very logically the focus of regular international negotiations aimed at contributing to a solution. For the moment, however, the only international political responses envisaged for curbing climate change attack the identified cause of the problem – greenhouse gas emissions – with the intention of reducing the volume of those emissions in the shortest possible time-frame.

However, as Baptiste Marsollat shows here, other, more technological responses exist which consist not in working on greenhouse gas emissions, but either in capturing/imprisoning these gases or, more ambitiously, in modifying solar radiation to reduce ongoing climate warming. This would mean applying the techniques of climate engineering or geo-engineering. Such a prospect has generated great controversy, but it cannot, for all that, be ignored indefinitely in the thinking on combating global warming.

This article reviews the subject of climate engineering (what is it and to what extent can we do it?) and the role it might play in the battle against climate change. It shows how this – long-tabooed – option is now finding a place within the most official circles in the Anglo-Saxon world. Without concealing the concerns to which it may, more or less justifiably, give rise, Marsollat shows that, faced with a dramatic choice, we might opt in the end for climate engineering as a way to fight global warming. And from a more proactive perspective, he also suggests we should reflect on how appropriate it might be to use it for shaping the planet’s climate and, in that way, for meeting a number of other major challenges.

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