Sustainability (Oct 2020)

Human Rights and Precautionary Principle: Limits to Geoengineering, SRM, and IPCC Scenarios

  • Jutta Wieding,
  • Jessica Stubenrauch,
  • Felix Ekardt

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 8858
p. 8858


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: Most scenarios on instruments limiting global warming in line with the 1.5 °C temperature limit of the Paris Agreement rely on overshooting the emissions threshold, thus requiring the application of negative emission technologies later on. Subsequently, the debate on carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and solar radiation management (SRM) (frequently subsumed under “geoengineering”) has been reinforced. Yet, it does not determine normatively whether those are legally valid approaches to climate protection. After taking a closer look at the scope of climate scenarios and SRM methods compiling current research and opinions on SRM, this paper analyses the feasibility of geoengineering and of SRM in particular under international law. It will be shown that from the perspective of human rights, the Paris Agreement, and precautionary principle the phasing-out of fossil fuels and the reduction in consumption of livestock products as well as nature-based approaches such as sustainable—and thus climate and biodiversity-smart—forest, peatland, and agricultural management strongly prevail before geoengineering and atmospheric SRM measures in particular. However, as all of the atmospheric SRM methods are in their development phase, governance options to effectively frame further exploration of SRM technologies are proposed, maintaining that respective technologies thus far are not a viable means of climate protection.