Headline: Visions of Climate Control: Solar Radiation Management in Climate Simulations

Various geoengineering technologies that would deliberately alter the climate system have been proposed as a way to alleviate risks of global warming. Technologies that would shield incoming sunlight to cool the planet, so called solar radiation management (SRM), are particularly controversial. Considering insights from social studies of simulation modeling and research on expectations in science and technology, I argue that climate modeling has a central role in producing visions of SRM. I draw upon an empirical analysis of scientific research on SRM to examine how a creative play with technological ideas becomes possible through climate modeling. This enables scientists to project and study environmental impacts of speculative SRM methods in virtual experiments and to develop and refine ideas for adjusting sunlight. Hence, while climate models are used to improve scientific understandings of climate system behavior and to anticipate possible environmental impacts of SRM, they also become inventive tools, allowing scientists to envision novel ways of climate control and optimization. Given the importance of simulation studies to knowledge production on SRM, I critically reflect on the challenges that arise when visions about an engineered climate future are first and foremost produced in climate simulations.

Publication Year
Publication Type
Academic Articles

Wiertz, T. (2016): Visions of Climate Control: Solar Radiation Management in Climate Simulations. - Science, Technology, and Human Values, 41, 3, p. 438-460.DOI: http://doi.org/10.1177/0162243915606524

Projects involved
Sustainable Interactions with the Atmosphere Interdisciplinary Microcosm on Climate Engineering Research Emerging Technologies and Societal Transformations