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.


Geoengineering, news media and metaphors: Framing the controversial

Matti Luokkanen, Suvi Huttunen, Mikael Hildén

We analyze how metaphors are used in presenting and debating novel technologies that could influence the climate and thereby also future climate change policies. We show that metaphors strengthen a policy-related storyline, while metaphors are rarer in purely descriptive accounts. The choice of metaphor frames the technologies. War metaphors are used equally in arguments that are for, against and neutral with respect to the further development of geoengineering, but differences arise in the use of metaphors related to controllability, health and mechanisms. Controllability metaphors are often used in justifying further research and development of good governance practices, whereas health metaphors tend to be used against the very idea of geoengineering by portraying technological interventions in the climate as an emblematic case of an unacceptable development. These findings suggest that metaphors are early indications of restrictions in the interpretative flexibility that influences future governance of geoengineering and geoengineering research.