Climate Engineering and game changers for international climate policy

By Penehuro Fatu Lefale 24 October 2018, 12:00AM

Penehuro Fatu Lefale 

Utualii, Lalomanu, Salelavalu

International Climate Analyst/Director

LeA International

Wellington, New Zealand.

Corresponding email address: [email protected]


In his response to my opinion piece “Climate engineering is the potential game changer we need to confront” published on October 18, 2018, posted online, October 23, 2018, Fiu Mataese invites me to “agree to disagree” on our views on geoengineering.  

I beg to differ.  

I have tremendous respect for Mr. Mataese. We have worked together on climate change for well over 15 years – starting back in the 1990s when he was Director of the former Samoa Department of Lands, Surveys and Environment, now Ministry for Natural Resources and the Environment (M.N.R.E). His relentless drive and stellar work ethics, not just on climate change but other related national and global challenges facing our people is second to none.  

And it was Mr. Mataese who raised geoengineering, often considered a taboo subject until now, that led to this conversation – a healthy development indeed. 

We both recognise Small Islands are on the front line of climate change. 

As global temperatures continue to rise, people in Small Islands and many in the global south face uncertain futures. 

As such, we both (i) want to find solutions to the climate change problem; (ii) are concerned about the potential impacts of geoengineering; (iii) are concerned about lack of an international governance mechanism for geoengineering; (iv) are concerned about climate justice and equity; and (v) want to see Small Islands succeed in their efforts to address the root cause of the climate change problem, anthropogenic (human induced) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere. 

Researchers globally are quite concerned with the ethical and moral consequences of geoengineering, and have made great strides to consider these aspects as they investigate numerous methods to halt warming above 1.5°C.  I explore the above issues in our essay (Chapter 24) “Climate Engineering and Small Island States: Panacea or Catastrophe?” recently published in the book “Geoengineering our Climate: Ethics, Politics, and Governance” Edited by Jason J. Backstock  and Sea Low, Routledge 290 pages,  

The book methodically covers: the practical and ethical dilemmas geoengineering poses; the evolving geoengineering research agenda; the challenges geoengineering technologies present to current international legal and political frameworks; and, differing perceptions of geoengineering from around the world. 

The book concludes with a series of forward-looking essays, some drawing lessons from precedents for governance from other global issues, others proposing how geoengineering technologies might be governed if/as they begin to emerge from the lab into the real world. 

 I encourage readers to read this book and to understand that my position remains that we need to be part of the climate engineering conversation or we will be at risk for any consequences and outcomes enacted by others on the global stage.

In addition, I would urge readers to read our Comment on Nature I cited in my October 18, 2018 piece at as well as our article “The Asia-Pacific’s role in the emerging geoengineering debate”, published in Climatic Change Journal, July 2017. [Citation: Sugiyama, M., Asayama, S., Ishii, A. et al. Climatic Change (2017) 143: 1.]

Mr. Mataese closes his letter by positing the following challenge: “…[W]hat paradigm shift shall we need to redefine our global mandate to free our peoples from the havoc reaping cage of climate change?”   


Here are my top Game Changers for the paradigm shift: 

1) Energy Transition - Low carbon (decarbonization) development (see IPCC 1.5oC Special Report on how to do this


2) Fossil fuel subsidy reform (see my opinion piece


3) Geoengineering technologies – Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and Solar Radiation Modification (SRM) (see my last op piece for details


4) Emission reduction targets for agriculture – see Stefan Frank, et al., (2017) Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture without compromising food security? at


5) Emission reduction targets international aviation and shipping (bunker fuels) – see International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO)


6) Advanced Nuclear Industry – see James McBride’s analysis of the IPCC 1.5oC Special Report on the role of nuclear in mitigating climate change. Breakthrough +Newsletter&utm_campaign =ed32c88057 - EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_ 2018_04_02_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49b872540e-ed32c88057-244548025


7) Adaptation and Resilient development:  The IPCC 1.5oC Special Report notes; 

Adaptation options specific to national contexts, if carefully selected together with enabling conditions, will have benefits for sustainable development and poverty reduction with global warming of 1.5°C, although trade-offs are possible (high confidence)

By Penehuro Fatu Lefale 24 October 2018, 12:00AM
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