The field of ‘climate engineering’, ‘geoengineering’, or ‘climate intervention’, as these technologies are typically referred to, is a highly diverse research field that looks for technological interventions into the climate systems that might help stave off the worst of climate change. Ranging from ecosystem adaptations that aim to capture and store carbon, to industrial facilities aiming to capture carbon at the source or directly from the air, and from infrastructure adaptations to make the Earth more reflective of sunlight to large-scale modifications of cloud cover or aerosol injections in the stratosphere, these interventions coalesce and rally around shared conceptions of climate and climate change.
In Imagining Climate Engineering, Jeroen Oomen asks how different conceptions of the climate, of climate politics and economics, and the role of the human in a larger biosphere lead to divergent views on the feasibility and desirability of these speculative technologies. Imagining Climate Engineering is the outflow of Jeroen’s PhD research, which was funded by a European Union Horizon 2020 Marie Curie project (ENHANCE). By combining methods from science & technology studies, history, sociology, and the environmental humanities, Jeroen attempts to understand why climate engineering researchers imagine these speculative climate-fixing technologies as possible approaches to climate change and how their views on this topic emerge.
Imagining Climate Engineering as a research project revolves around political and cultural questions about climate engineering. Specifically, the project asks how values connect to climate epistemology and ontologies about human-nature relationships. How, for example, is climate engineering a manifestation of an older history of human-nature relationships and technological dreams? What type of knowledge do climate engineering researchers think they need to consider manipulating the global climate? On what basis do these researchers see particular interventions as feasible or desirable? This all ties together in the question of how climate engineering becomes a scientific dream for some or a promethean nightmare for others—depending on how they view the climate, how they view politics and human relations, how much they think we can know about the climate, and whether or not humans even should engineer the climate.
The project will culminate in a book, Imagining Climate Engineering: Dreaming the Designer Climate, to be published by Routledge late 2020.