Contextualizing Climate Engineering and Mitigation: Illusion, Complement, or Substitute?

Time is running out: in spite of all the efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, the effects of climate change – global warming, sea-level rise and extreme weather conditions – can already be felt. This has led to increasing calls for targeted interventions in the climate system, referred to collectively as ‘climate engineering’. But such interventions carry substantial risks. And they also raise far-reaching political and ethical questions. This project explores the ethical conditions under which such interventions would be considered permissible.

Policy advice on climate engineering

The project investigates whether climate engineering could complement climate action or if it would be more likely to compete with efforts to protect the climate to date. To what extent and under what ethical parameters would climate engineering be permissible? The results of this research are intended for use in policy advice. With this in mind, we plan to expand on existing analyses of techniques such as Carbon Dioxide Removal from the atmosphere (CDR) and Solar Radiation Management (SRM).

Is climate engineering a realistic option?

In a nutshell, our researchers want to find out what societal, ethical, and technological assumptions influence the decision for or against the application of climate engineering. This research represents the IASS contribution to the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) Priority Programme on climate engineering in cooperation with the University of Hamburg, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and the University of Graz. A dissertation will be completed as part of the project.


Dr Stefan Schäfer

+49 (0)331 288 22369


2016 to 2019

Project partners:

  • University of Hamburg
  • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
  • University of Graz


climate engineering, climate policy, climate modelling, normative assessment


Scientific Project Leader: Dr Stefan Schäfer

Supervising Directors: Prof. Mark Lawrence, Prof. Ortwin Renn

Team Assistants: Tanja Baines

Funded by

File number: LA 1489/2-2