UCLA School of Law Professor Edward Parson has published an editorial in Science, the world’s leading scientific journal, calling for more research on solar geoengineering.
Solar geoengineering is a potential way to complement deep emissions cuts and adaptation measures in an integrated response to climate change. It would help make the Earth a little more reflective to incoming sunlight, most likely by spraying a fine mist of reflective aerosols in the upper atmosphere.
Parson is the Dan and Rae Emmett Professor of Environmental Law and faculty director of UCLA Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. His article, “Geoengineering: Symmetric Precaution,” was published online and in the Nov. 12 print of Science. Parson writes that opponents of solar geoengineering research have valid and compelling concerns but that research would still advance the understanding of the technology, including how its risks compare to other climate policy responses.
“Suppressing solar geoengineering research is likely to make the harms and injustices that opponents fear more likely not less,” he writes. “Precaution is appropriate, even necessary. But precaution cannot selectively target risks from one climate response while ignoring its linkages to other responses and risks.”
A successful research program would take place as part of a national program, in countries with cultures of public benefit and research accountability, Parson suggests. Any studies or field experiments should take place with strong research rules in place and alongside consultation with citizens. Parson also argues that management of early-stage research should aim to inform the laws and policies needed to govern any potential future deployment.
Parson is an expert in international environmental law and policy, the societal impacts and governance of disruptive technologies, and the political economy of regulation. Parson founded the institute’s geoengineering governance initiative in 2017 and has led the program’s world-leading research and policy engagement on legal and policy issues presented by solar geoengineering and carbon dioxide removal.
The editorial in Science adds to more than 50 publications by Parson and other scholars in the initiative in the past five years. In the academic journal Futures, Parson joined Jesse Reynolds, then the Emmett/Frankel Fellow in Environmental Law and Policy, in synthesizing a special collection of six papers on scenarios for deployment of solar geoengineering technologies in the absence of an international agreement. Parson and Holly Buck, then the Emmett Climate Engineering Fellow, also contributed to Global Environmental Politics with an article on how to manage the future phasedown of carbon dioxide removal programs.
As faculty director for the Emmett Institute, Parson works alongside nine other UCLA Law faculty members to advance law and policy responses to climate change and other environmental issues in Los Angeles, California, the United States, and around the world. The institute offers students hands-on training in environmental law and has launched graduates into leadership roles at government agencies, at non-profits, and in private practice.