Desperate Times, Desperate Measures: Advancing the geoengineering debate at the Arctic Council

By Henry David Venema, Bjørnar Egede-Nissen, Henry David Venema on September 9, 2009

The Arctic is like the canary in the coalmine, warning us about the increasing impact of climate change, which is felt first there. In 2007, the Arctic ice cap shrunk to its smallest size ever recorded, 37 per cent below the recorded average. Its abrupt decline, which deviates widely from the largely linear and predictable trend observed over the past few decades, has alarmed the scientific community and suggests we may be closer to a dangerous "tipping point" than previously anticipated. At the same time, economic globalization is coming to this marginalized region at last through increased resource exploitation, leading in turn to further emissions of greenhouse gases and further climate change.

As unsavoury as it may be, this paper will argue that we must investigate geoengineering as an emergency option in case the mitigation regime fails. Given the dramatic consequences of climate change in the Arctic and the role of this region in the global climate, the Arctic countries have a special responsibility to lead this investigation and the debate surrounding it. As the only circumpolar governance forum on environmental issues, the Arctic Council is an obvious venue for this process. The paper explores the state of global geoengineering governance and how it should be constructed, and how the Arctic Council can contribute.

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IISD, 2009