Deliberative Mapping of options for tackling climate change: Citizens and specialists ‘open up’ appraisal of geoengineering

Rob Bellamy, Jason Chilvers and Naomi E. Vaughan

Appraisals of deliberate, large-scale interventions in the earth’s climate system, known collectively as ‘geoengineering’, have largely taken the form of narrowly framed and exclusive expert analyses that prematurely ‘close down’ upon particular proposals. Here, we present the findings from the first ‘upstream’ appraisal of geoengineering to deliberately ‘open up’ to a broader diversity of framings, knowledges and future pathways. We report on the citizen strand of an innovative analytic–deliberative participatory appraisal process called Deliberative Mapping. A select but diverse group of sociodemographically representative citizens from Norfolk (United Kingdom) were engaged in a deliberative multi-criteria appraisal of geoengineering proposals relative to other options for tackling climate change, in parallel to symmetrical appraisals by diverse experts and stakeholders. Despite seeking to map divergent perspectives, a remarkably consistent view of option performance emerged across both the citizens’ and the specialists’ deliberations, where geoengineering proposals were outperformed by mitigation alternatives.



How did the fracking controversy emerge in the period 2010-2012?

Allan Mazur

In 2010-2012, the controversy over fracking grew rapidly, first in the United States, and then internationally. An important step was the anti-fracking documentary film Gasland. With help from celebrity sources, the film was produced and won a prize at the Sundance Film Festival by early 2010 and had an Oscar nomination by early 2011, in the meantime popularizing potent images of hazard including tainted aquifers and ignitable water running from kitchen faucets. During this period, major US news organizations paid little attention to the issue. The offshore Deepwater Horizon disaster of April 2010 spurred The New York Times to prolific reporting on potential risks of the new onshore technique for extracting shale gas. With flagship news coverage, the controversy had by 2012 gained wide media attention that evoked public concern and opposition, spreading from the United States to other nations.


Public Engagement with Biotechnologies Offers Lessons for the Governance of Geoengineering Research and Beyond

Jack Stilgoe, Matthew Watso and Kirsty Kuo

In this paper, we reflect on our involvement in one of the first major research projects in the emerging area of geoengineering (the deliberate intervention in the planetary climate). The project, Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE), proposed an outdoor experiment that attracted substantial public scrutiny despite a strong consensus that the experiment posed no direct environmental risk. A programme of stakeholder engagement took place that sought a deep understanding of the views about the proposed experiment. The lessons from this experiment build on insights from public engagement with the biosciences and biotechnology. In particular, we see the importance of questions of context and purpose for scientific research. This has important implications for the governance of geoengineering research. Efforts to detach areas of research from public scrutiny by using thresholds, whether these are drawn at a particular level of environmental effect or at the doors of a laboratory, will encounter problems of public credibility. Geoengineering is unavoidably entangled in a political discussion that scientists should seek to understand and engage with.


Framing the Controversial: Geoengineering in Academic Literature

Suvi Huttunen, Mikael Hildén

Geoengineering is an example of a highly political science-driven topic. We explore how researchers frame geoengineering and what implications these frames have for the science-policy interface and the politicization of science. Our analysis revealed three main ways to frame geoengineering in scientific literature. The “Risk-benefit” frame emphasizes calculation and further research, the “Governance” frame emphasizes the need to develop institutions and procedures, and the “Natural balance” frame focuses on the ethical aspects of geoengineering. The researchers’ frames have different political implications, indicating a need to ensure transparency and dialogue at the science-policy nexus.