The Heidelberg Geoengineering Forum
The Heidelberg Geoengineering Forum (HGF) brings together researchers located in the Rhine-Neckar region who are engaged in improving our knowledge on the potential, limitations and risks of Climate Engineering. At the moment it includes scholars based in Heidelberg, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt.
Members of the Heidelberg Geoengineering Forum are involved in the following projects:
Climate Engineering Impacts: Between Reliability and Liability
(Part of SPP 1689)
Information acquisition under fundamental uncertainty
(DFG Research Project)
Studies on Climate Change and Climate Engineering
(Institute of Political Science, Heidelberg University)
What is Geoengineering?
There has been scientific consensus for a long time that human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions alter the world's climate. However, no international consensus on the reduction of GHG has been achieved. In fact, global emissions per year are still increasing. As a result the question has been raised whether alternative measures exist that could - at least partly - alter the path of climate change.
In recent years, an option that has been increasingly and controversly debated is so-called Geoengineering. Geoengineering, or Climate Engineering, denotes technological concepts for manipulating the climate system by either intervening in the global carbon cycle or by reducing incoming solar radiation. The first sort of technologies is called Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and tackles the physical cause of global warming: By fertilizing the oceans, by chemical procedures to sequester CO2 or by afforestation, atmospheric GHG concentration could be reduced substantially. The second set of technolgies, known as Solar Radiation Management (SRM), aims at reflecting some fraction of incoming solar radiation in order to limit global warming: Artificial clouds, injecting sulfate particles into the stratosphere or even reflectors in outer space would reduce the average surface temperature. These concepts differ significantly with respect to feasibility, efficiency, costs and potential risks.
Due to the high complexity of the climate system, Geoengineering is in many respects subject to risk and uncertainty. Our knowledge regarding the technical implementability, the geophysical effects as well as societal consequences of Geoengineering is limited at best. Moreover, no legal or political agreements on the deployment of Geoengineering are in place. Those uncertainties, strongly linked with each other and transcending disciplinary borders, call for interdisciplinary research on Geoengineering.
First considerable steps in this direction had been made in Heidelberg within the project The Global Governance of Climate Engineering at the Marsilius Kolleg. Since then, the German Research Foundation (DFG) has started to take an active interest in the scientific questions surrounding Geoengineering. Since 2013, there is the Priority Program 1689 on "Climate Engineering: Risks, Challenges, Opportunities?" funded by the DFG. This Priority Program provides the core funding for many of HGF's activities.