Geoengineering: Re-making Climate for Profit or Humanitarian Intervention?


  • Holly Jean Buck

    1. is a researcher at the Institute of Social Ecology (IFF Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Klagenfurt, Schottenfeldgasse 29, 1070 Vienna, Austria, email: She is interested in social science applications of remote sensing and is currently working on mapping ecological distribution conflicts.
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I would like to thank A. Malm for feedback, as well as the anonymous reviewers.


Climate engineering, or geoengineering, refers to large-scale climate interventions to lower the earth's temperature, either by blocking incoming sunlight or removing carbon dioxide from the biosphere. Regarded as ‘technofixes’ by critics, these strategies have evoked concern that they would extend the shelf life of fossil-fuel driven socio-ecological systems for far longer than they otherwise would, or should, endure. A critical reading views geoengineering as a class project that is designed to keep the climate system stable enough for existing production systems to continue operating. This article first examines these concerns, and then goes on to envision a regime driven by humanitarian agendas and concern for vulnerable populations, implemented through international development and aid institutions. The motivations of those who fund research and implement geoengineering techniques are important, as the rationale for developing geoengineering strategies will determine which techniques are pursued, and hence which ecologies are produced. The logic that shapes the geoengineering research process could potentially influence social ecologies centuries from now.