By Dr Janine Sargoni, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).*
In what has been described as ‘nature’s own great climate experiment’, the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines provided scientists with data to refine their climate models. After the eruption, average global temperatures dropped temporarily as particles released into the stratosphere increased the Earth’s albedo. Solar Radiation Management (SRM) – or ‘reflecting sunlight to cool earth’ – developed notionally thereafter as a means of reducing global average temperatures resulting from increased greenhouse gases.
Pinatubo provided all kinds of data which helped increase the accuracy of climate models eventually predicting with relative certainty the temperature-cooling climatic impacts of SRM, whilst leaving relatively uncertain – or unknown – the extent of environmental impacts, such as those arising from changing patterns of rainfall. The current limitations of models in telling us about localised environmental uncertainties could be reduced if research into the effects of SRM took place outdoors, or in the field, so to speak. But that research would actually constitute deployment which itself would generate uncertain environmental effects. Given these significant constraints it is not possible to establish to what extent SRM technologies are effective or reliable and therefore it is imperative that a legitimate regulatory process is secured in which decisions about its research and deployment can be taken.
This new article* sets out how risky SRM field research might be regulated in the EU in such a way as to maximise legitimacy. It suggests that under particular conditions the EU could delegate to an independent agency powers to undertake what I call an incorporated risk assessment; an assessment in which science and politics, expertise and lay-knowledges are combined. Legitimacy would be maximised because the EU’s regulatory framework relating to the risks of SRM field research would be legal and also responsive, flexible, deliberative and inclusive. (more…)