New Scenarios and Models for Climate Engineering

FCEA has embarked on a two-year project, titled “New Scenarios and Models for Climate Engineering,” with the support of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). Led by FCEA’s Co-Executive Director, Simon Nicholson, and Chris Trisos of the University of Cape Town, the project will produce the first set of scenarios and models that integrate both the social and environmental aspects of climate engineering technologies and that, in addition, help policymakers understand potential interactions between climate engineering technologies and existing mitigation efforts. The result will be a new set of powerful tools to guide policy decisions around climate engineering technologies, as well as guidance for the inclusion of socio-environmental dynamics into climate scenarios and models more generally.

The project revolves around a series of four workshops held at SESYNC in Annapolis, Maryland. Each workshop will convene fifteen to twenty experts from around the world, including experts on solar geoengineering, carbon removal, climate modeling, integrated assessment modeling, public policy, climate politics, and scenarios generation.

SESYNC brings together the science of the natural world with the science of human behavior and decision-making to find solutions to complex environmental problems.  By supporting interdisciplinary science teams and researchers with diverse skills, data, and perspectives, SESYNC seeks to lead in-depth research and scholarship that will inform decisions and accelerate scientific discovery.


Workshop 1: May 6–10, 2019

The first workshop focused on developing detailed, dynamic scenarios depicting possible futures in which climate engineering play an important role. With the help of three science fiction writers, Laura Pereira of City University of London led the group through a scenarios generation process adapted from the Manoa mash-up method. Over five days, participants developed three core scenarios to help understand how solar geoengineering and carbon removal might factor into the future, and what forces or dynamics in those scenarios might lead to better or worse outcomes.

This workshop’s core participants, in alphabetical order, were:

Valentina Aquila American University
Assistant Professor of Environmental Science
Brian Beckage University of Vermont
Professor of Plant Biology & Computer Science
Sam Beckbessinger Cape Town-based science fiction writer
Lauren Beukes Cape Town-based science fiction writer
Holly Buck University of California–Los Angeles
Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
Colin Carlson Georgetown University
Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Biology
Oliver Geden German Institute for International and Security Affairs
Head of Research Division
David Keller GEOMAR, Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel
Research Scientist
Katharine Mach Stanford University
Senior Research Scientist, Department of Earth System Science
Mohale Mashigo Cape Town-based science fiction writer
Juan Moreno-Cruz University of Waterloo
Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Energy Transitions
David Morrow American University
Director of Research, Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment
Simon Nicholson American University
Assistant Professor of International Relations
Executive Director, Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment
Laura Pereira City University Lonson
Postdoctoral Research, Department of Sociology
Chris Trisos University of Cape Town
Research Fellow, African Climate and Development Initiative
Daniele Visioni Cornell University
Postodoctoral Associate, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

The organizers would also like to thank SESYNC’s Carrie Hritz for additional facilitation, as well as several drop-in participants, including Drew Jones, Shuchi Talati, and Michael Thompson.

Workshop participants are currently working on a range of outputs, including academic papers and science fiction stories distilling the scenarios generated and the lessons learned at the workshop.


Mohale Mashigo contemplates a Future Wheel at SESYNC A group of researchers discuss possible pathways to their imagined future Four researchers sit around a table, looking at a computer screen, as they plan to present a week's work