How are we going to save the Earth from climate change? It is the million-dollar question everyone wants an answer to. One idea to tackle climate change is through ‘climate manipulation’. Simply put, it involves construction work on the sky. One example is SRM (Solar radiation Modification). You can learn all about this topic in our programme on SRM next week. To gain more insight and hear from a critical researcher, we interviewed Professor Frank Biermann, a research professor of Global Sustainability Governance at Utrecht University, who specializes in SRM.


But first, a brief explanation of climate manipulation. According to assistant professor Jeroen Oomen, we can distinguish between two categories. The first category is carbon dioxide removal. The second involves reflecting a fraction of the incoming solar radiation to reduce global warming and its impacts (Wieners et al., 2023). This is called Solar Radiation Modification (SRM). No one knows exactly what consequences the technology will have because it has never been used on a large scale. This is why SRM remains controversial; some researchers argue it should be banned, as we would be introducing new substances with unknown side effects to an atmosphere that is already completely out of balance.

Three questions for Frank Biermann, to get acquainted with the topic of SRM:

1. Why do you think it is necessary to invest in global governance for the non-use of Solar Radiation Modification?

Solar geoengineering is not a solution to the climate crisis. Such speculative technologies carry too many risks for the global environment, and there is simply no way to set up an effective global governance system for the deployment of solar geoengineering. This entire debate about solar geoengineering threatens to take attention away from what really matters: to urgently reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.

2. How does a non-use agreement work? And how does it contribute to climate justice?

There are numerous successful international agreements that commit governments to the non-use of risky or undesirable technologies. For example, we have international bans on the development of chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines, mining in Antarctica, and many more. With an “international non-use agreement on solar geoengineering”, all governments would agree not to develop technologies that could artificially engineer the climate system. This agreement would ensure that climate finance remains focused on mitigation rather than geoengineering, and it would ban the granting of commercial patents for such hazardous technologies. Additionally, governments would commit to not supporting geoengineering initiatives within international organisations. All these measures would help block the dangerous distraction of climate engineering, and the full attention would again be given to what really matters: the phase-out of fossil fuels and the ending of the dangerous emissions of greenhouse gases. This is why over 500 academics, the group of African countries and many international NGOs have been calling for a non-use agreement on solar geoengineering.

3. If there is a single country that does not sign the non-use agreement and decides to deploy the SRM technology, then this will have global consequences. How do you prevent individual countries from nullifying the non-use agreement?

Once a large majority of countries firmly agree that solar geoengineering is not an option, investments in such dangerous technologies will stop. No country will invest in developing solar geoengineering technology if all other countries object to the deployment of this technology. If the majority of all countries is clearly against solar geoengineering, no single country will develop such technologies alone.

Do you want to learn more about global governance of climate engineering?

Join us on Monday the 10th of June at 20:00 for the programma A cold war on global warming.



Wieners, C. E., Hofbauer, B. P., de Vries, I. E., Honegger, M., Visioni, D., Russchenberg, H. W. J., & Felgenhauer, T. (2023). Solar radiation modification is risky, but so is rejecting it: a call for balanced research. Oxford Open Climate Change, 3(1), Article kgad002.