For Solar Geoengineering, Daunting Policy Questions Await

A climate economist discusses why efforts to cool earth’s climate through solar geoengineering appear all but inevitable, and considers the policy questions and political battles to come.

There is no overarching, national debate into the merits of solar geoengineering, which is process to artificially cool the Earth by reflecting sunlight back into space. The technology sounds fanciful, the stuff of science fiction. Yet earlier this year the National Academies of Sciences issued an urgent request to Washington to begin a federal research program into geoengineering. That request has, so far, largely fallen on deaf ears.

Climate economist Gernot Wagner believes solar geoengineering is inevitable despite the relative lack of attention the technology has attracted to date. In a recently published book he makes the case for this inevitability, and also presents a compelling argument for why much more research into geoengineering’s risks must be completed if is to be put into practice. In the podcast, he explores why solar geoengineering is fundamentally different from other strategies that address climate change, and why research programs into the technology must be tightly governed. He also discusses concern that solar geoengineering’s implementation, if inevitable, is likely to stoke fierce policy debate and, quite possibly, geopolitical tensions.

Gernot Wagner is a climate economist at New York University and author of the recently published book Geoengineering: the Gamble. He is also co-author of Climate Shock, which was chosen by the Financial Times as a best book in economics in 2015.


Gernot Wagner

Clinical Associate Professor, NYU
Gernot Wagner is a climate economist. He teaches climate economics and policy at NYU, where he is a clinical associate professor. Wagner is a 2021-2022 Kleinman Center Visiting Scholar.

Andy Stone

Energy Policy Now Host and Producer
Andy Stone is producer and host of Energy Policy Now, the Kleinman Center’s podcast series. He previously worked in business planning with PJM Interconnection and was a senior energy reporter at Forbes Magazine.