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Governing Geoengineering

New technologies to combat global warming could complement reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. But their potential impact is highly uncertain, and failure to govern their use properly could aggravate existing threats to international peace and security.

NEW YORK – Climate change poses an unprecedented threat to humanity, one that appears increasingly likely to reduce global standards of living dramatically within our lifetime, and cause untold damage in the longer term. And, because addressing such a daunting planetary challenge requires radical approaches, there have been wide-ranging discussions about what the world must urgently do to limit the rise in global temperature to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Although reducing greenhouse-gas emissions must remain the highest priority, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says this is not enough. Some now suggest that we also need to remove huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the air. Others argue that we may also need to reflect sunlight back into space, to buy the world more time to reduce and remove emissions.

Taken together, these two approaches are known as geoengineering. And as the effects of climate change worsen, a growing number of policymakers, scientists, and entrepreneurs are considering such options more seriously.

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