Dear Academy Fellows,
We request your guidance and involvement in proposed Academy work on Climate System Governance, a topic we believe will be one of the most critical public policy issues in the decades ahead. This has already become a hot topic under the heading of “geoengineering” -- referring to a variety of methods to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. We believe such approaches should not be embraced or rejected out of hand, but should be considered within a larger perspective on the co-evolution of humanity and the biosphere. And we also recognize that this is a matter of the highest urgency.
Now we have a series of questions for you. By agreement with the Academy's board, we have said that only if there is strong interest in the Academy will we propose a major program of study on the larger governance issues involved in humanity now needing to actively manage the world's climate.
The topic of geoengineering the world's climate was first discussed at the Academy's October 2008 General Assembly at Hyderabad, in a panel organized by WAAS Fellow Raoul Weiler, president of the EU Chapter of the Club of Rome. In subsequent discussions, Prof. Weiler introduced to the Academy the study on geoengineering being organized by the Technical University of Munich in which he proposed that the Academy take on the topic of Governance issues.
In March 2009 a small group of Fellows including Professor Weiler (and augmented by the president of the World Futures Society and a member of the US Environmental Protection Agency's policy advisory group) met in Washington, DC and recommended development of an Academy program.
A day prior to the Academy's recent Board of Trustees meeting at Menlo Park, CA, we conducted a symposium on geoengineering that featured three presentations. One on the scientific issues by Prof. Kenneth Caldeira of Stanford University (who chairs the US National Academy of Science study on the topic), one on general governance issues by Prof. Granger Morgan of Case Western University (who chaired a recent international conference on risk assessment and geoengineering), and one on governance of geoengineering by Dr. Jason Blackstock of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (who is involved in a number of studies, particularly on research protocols). Each of these presentations involved power point presentations which are now posted on the Academy's website. (If we are able to post a video of these presentations on the Academy’s web site, we will do so.) In the discussions at the symposium it was agreed that a wider look at governance issues relating to humanity's management of the environment was called for, and that the immediate driver of the discussions would be the issues arising from geoengineering proposals.
Following the symposium, our Board of Trustees endorsed the proposal of a study on Climate System Governance to include consideration of the role of geoengineering.
With the September 1, 2009 release of an important study by the Royal Society calling for fairly aggressive research on climate geoengineering, and with a similar on-going study by the US National Academy of Science likely to parallel their recommendations, there is growing interest in the scientific and public policy communities on whether it will be necessary to artificially reduce the temperature on the earth as a fail-safe step given the already serious build-up of greenhouse gases and the inadequate steps being taken to reduce future emissions. An organizing working group within the Academy believes that the scientific and policy issues involved will constitute one of the largest challenges to have faced humanity. The report of the Royal Society can be found at the following link: www.royalsociety.org/geoengineeringclimate
An added background observation. As one contemplates the largest climate governance issues, the history of governance of specific environmental issues is relevant. A conference on Global Environmental Governance held in Glion, Switzerland (June 28-July 2, 2009) reviewed much of this history. While there has been important progress on a number of specific issues (e.g., environmental protocols, the work of the International Panel on Climate Change, etc.) governance of environmental issues at the multilateral level is fragmented and underfunded, and hampered by a long term political stalemate over the questions of compensation and the right to development. In other words, existing institutional arrangements are not adequate.
Questions for you:
We have opened a discussion page under the project heading of Climate System Governance. We invite your comments and suggestions on these questions and any others you believe we should collectively address. We hope to identify the comparative advantages of the Academy in generating discussion and direct or indirect policy follow-through; and we hope to craft a study outline that responds to the interest of the Fellows.
1. What should our prime goal be: a) increase knowledge among the Fellows of the Academy; b) help educate policy think tanks; or c) attempt to influence policy-makers with specific recommendations?
2. What fields ought to be involved in the Academy's study, in addition to climate science and public administration? Psychology? Education (formal and/or informal)? Philosophy? The history of humanity’s relationship to its environment?
3. What research approach for the study do you think is most appropriate for the Academy?
4. How ambitious should we strive to be? Should we strive for a briefing and technical findings or for a high profile book-length report? This question relates to your view of the importance of the question and your estimate of the Academy’s resources.
5. There is agreement that at a minimum the Academy's traditional role is to educate about issues. So far the discussions on geoengineering have largely been in the North. Regional impacts from climate change (at an early stage of examination) will likely vary with relative winners and losers. At a minimum, the Academy could stimulate discussions of Climate System Management in various key forums around the world. (We are already arranging what will probably be the first major discussion in the Middle East on geoengineering and Climate System Management. Financing for this discussion will be provided by the host institution, the Library of Alexandria.) If you feel other such discussions would be useful, kindly suggest other venues in regional settings where the Academy might foster such discussions.
6. Are there logical partners that should be involved in the work on Climate System Management that you envision for the Academy? Or should the Academy pursue its own independent course at least for a while?
7. Since all Academy projects must raise their own finance, what sources of support do you recommend that might be interested in a study?
8. Would you like to be involved in this study? What would you most like your involvement to be?
We encourage use of the Academy's blogs, but if there are aspects of your answer (such as the last question above) that you prefer to convey privately, you are invited to be in direct touch with both of us.
Many thanks for your interest and ideas.
With good wishes,