4 April 2019

Frank Biermann in Dutch newspaper: “Investigate ‘cooling down’ the Earth”

The Netherlands have to take a stance in the increasing international discussion on the deliberate intervention in the Earth’s climate system as a possible solution to climate change and investigate the risks of this technique, argues Frank Biermann, professor of Global Sustainability Governance at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development of Utrecht University, today in an op-ed in the Dutch national newspaper De Volkskrant. He was also interviewed about this topic on Dutch national radio.

Recently there has been a lot of debate about the deliberate intervention in the climate system to ‘cool down’ the Earth. ‘Climate engineering’, as this technique is called, gets serious attention in the international climate debate. It may sound like science fiction: removing CO2 from the atmosphere, or injecting sulphate particles into the stratosphere, for example.

Geoengineering
Illustration of possible climate engineering techniques. Credit: iStock.com/graphicwithart

“This technique is certainly not undisputed,” writes Biermann in De Volkskrant. “There is a lot of doubt about whether climate engineering is a desirable strategy at all.” As Biermann explains, that is because “all forms of climate engineering have large risks and uncertainties”. Yet, no international rules and governance exist for dealing with these experiments and techniques.

According to Biermann, it is therefore “crucial that the Netherlands - one of the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change indeed – starts the discussion and initiates research programmes that help us determine our approach and negotiating position in this rapidly increasing international debate.”

United Nations General Assembly
UN Summit on Climate Change, 2009. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The professor also points at the chance for developing countries in this context. They are highly vulnerable to the risks of climate engineering, yet hardly have a say in the debates about it. Biermann comes to this conclusion in a recent paper written together with Ina Möller from the University of Lund. Since the international debate about climate engineering has now also been brought to the United Nations, developing countries need to grab their chance to gain influence on this topic, he argues.

To conclude Biermann writes that “without a doubt, the highest priority is and remains that we limit the emission of greenhouse gases. But if we do not reach the targets set in the Paris climate agreement, the call for such technological programmes will only increase. The Netherlands should have a political answer to that.”