Imagineering Australian climate futures

Author: Anita Talberg1

1 Australian-German Climate and Energy College (University of Melbourne)

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Geoengineering is the collective term for a diverse set of techniques and technologies that aim to manipulate the planet’s environment to address climate change. Many of the methods that sit under the geoengineering umbrella engender severe risks and potentially irreversible impacts, both environmental and social. To date, Australia has not engaged heavily with the geoengineering debate. However, Australia has a lot at stake in any discussion of geoengineering. Will geoengineering present a risk or an opportunity for Australia? How can Australia contribute to geoengineering decision-making?

This project sought to explore how Australia and the world might manage climate change in 2050 as a way to understand the diversity of situations in which geoengineering might be deployed. A workshop was held to produce multiscale scenarios to 2050. The four scenarios that were produced—‘Corporatocracy’, ‘The Purge’, ‘1984’ and ‘Spaceship Earth’—illustrated four very different worlds and worldviews. Drivers or uncertainties that were identified as determinants of how the world manages climate change in 2050 were:

  • Global geopolitical stability
  • Cultural acceptance of geoengineering
  • Social and political pressure to act on climate change
  • The role of private technology and financial interests in acting on climate change and in developing geoengineering technologies

The drivers of Australia’s management of climate change were seen to be:

  • The effectiveness/longevity of the Paris Agreement
  • Generational change: the potential for a new cultural paradigm
  • Climate change impacts and our ability to adapt
  • The potential for major socio-economic or ‘ecosystem’ events
  • National security views of climate change
  • Role of the media in Australia

In all but one scenario, geoengineering was deployed to manage temperature increases and other climate change impacts. However, the direct justification for the geoengineering deployment and the way in which the act took place differed between scenarios. Generally, where geoengineering deployment is considered, Australia is seen to be involved and to cooperate with other ‘rich’ countries.

Documents: 
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PDF icon Geoengineering scenarios workshop 20166.18 MB