Special Guest Lecture: Dr. Mark Borsuk

Guest Speaker: Mark Borsuk – Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke University

Title: Adversarial Risk Analysis of the Geopolitics of Geoengineering

Talk Abstract:
Climate change mitigation has traditionally been analyzed as some version of a public goods game (PGG) in which a group is most successful if everybody contributes, but players are best off individually by not contributing anything (i.e., “free-riding”)—thereby creating a social dilemma. Analysis of climate change using the PGG and its variants has helped explain why global cooperation on GHG reductions is so difficult, as nations have an incentive to free-ride on the reductions of others. Rather than inspire collective action, it seems that the lack of progress in addressing the climate crisis is driving the search for a “quick fix” technological solution that circumvents the need for cooperation. In particular, solar radiation management (SRM) – the injection of reflective particles into the stratosphere – may be sufficiently cheap and easy to be implemented by a single nation without international agreement. SRM could have unintended consequences, including ozone layer depletion, changes in precipitation, and adverse impacts on ecosystems and agriculture, and furthermore would require ongoing action to replenish the injected particles. It is also becoming apparent that, in addition to its intrinsic risks, the prospect of SRM as a quick fix to climate change may transform incentives and introduce new international governance challenges. For example, if one nation (or a group of nations) is more susceptible to climate impacts, it may decide early to implement SRM. Other nations might free-ride, not taking any action themselves, if they expect to receive a positive externality from SRM. On the other hand, some nations may prefer a warmer climate, be at greater risk of detrimental SRM side effects, or oppose climate engineering on principle, and thus be subject to a negative externality. These nations might seek to restrain implementation of SRM by a motivated “free-driver.” It is currently unclear how such a host of differing incentives, potential behavior, and attendant liability might be governed at a global level by existing institutions. Yet, initiation of geoengineering without an appropriate governance structure in place has the potential to lead to major international conflict. This talk will be used as an opportunity to explore the potential for Adversarial Risk Analysis (ARA) to shed light on this complex problem.

Presentation Slides: