DFG Research Projekt - Climate Engineering Impact: Between Reliability and Liability (CEIBRAL)
CEIBRAL – Climate Engineering Impact: Between Reliability and Liability
Prof. Dr. Martin Carrier (Bielefeld University)
Prof. Timo Goeschl, Ph.D. (Heidelberg University)
Prof. Dr. Alexander Proelß (University of Trier)
Dr. Hauke Schmidt (Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology)
CEIBRAL is part of DFG priority program `Climate Engineering: Risks, Challenges, Opportunities?’
Climate Engineering (CE) is a novel, untested, but potentially effective form of intervention in the global climate system suggested to counteract global warming. Its novelty, the lack of validated evidence on its impacts, and the possibility that it may be decided to deploy this technology regardless touch on fundamental issues. These concern the modeling of the global climate system, decision-making on the nature and scope of interventions in the climate, and our thinking about the relationships between technology, society and nature. Even more fundamentally, it touches on the question of how knowledge and action relate to another. Reliability and liability are both concepts that connect knowledge on CE and the potential deployment of CE in different ways, reflecting notions of predictability, accuracy, robustness, and opportuneness (reliability) and responsibility, answerability, and legal obligation (liability). CEIBRAL represents a starting point to fill this gap by joining insights from climate modeling, philosophy, economics and law.
Large-scale trials or actual deployment of CE measures require a specifically applicable and effective international legal framework between States. This prerequisite may pose an insurmountable hurdle for going forward with field experiments and use of CE. Such a legal framework would have to define rules and principles that (a) determine under which conditions the deployment of CE measures is permitted, and (b) regulate the compensation between States for damages that are associated with CE interventions.
A critical requirement for this framework would be its ability to handle an unusual feature of damages associated with CE. This is that due to the nature of the climate and weather system, it will in practice be almost impossible to link specific damages conclusively to CE activities. The requirements of a putative international legal framework throw two important deficiencies in the global architecture for sharing the international risks of CE into sharp relief: One is the lack of a functioning international framework that would define the rights and obligations of countries towards each other as they engage in risky large-scale modifications of the global climate system. Such a framework of international liability is, at present, not available. The other is the lack of a framework for handling risk settings in which the damage attribution does not follow experience-based cause-effect relationships, but will have to rely on model predictions. As a rule, no relevant and significant probabilities are available so that standard risk management is of limited value. The reliability of model predictions of CE impacts needs to be assessed using alternative conceptual approaches. Such reliability assessments require a deep methodological analysis of climate models and their applications. In circumstances in which the actions of one party impose risks on another, rules of liability have established themselves as a highly effective system of governance for providing incentives for due care and for addressing equity issues between potential injurers and victims.
However, given the scale of CE interventions and the uncertainty of impacts, is it conceivable that a global governance system could address the issues of reliability and liability such as to ensure that the location, timing, mode, and scale of CE interventions is both effective and regarded as legitimate rather than reckless?
If this question was answered in the negative, the inability to allocate their risks would incapacitate CE technologies as a backstop technology. Even if it was answered in the positive, the specific conditions under which a suitable legal framework could arise would have to be established. By bringing together climate modelers, philosophers, economists and legal scholars this project explores the core issues of this central question. In a combination of work packages (see fig.), we advance current knowledge on
- the reliability of model predictions,
- how to handle divergences of prediction,
- how to resolve the issues of efficient and equitable risk sharing in the face of real-world and model-generated uncertainty, and
- how to resolve the challenges of model-based attribution for international liability regimes, potentially even involving the modeler.
We do so using stratospheric aerosol injection as a model case, but will also apply our insights to ocean alkalinity enhancement and afforestation measures.