Negative emissions and the politics of anticipation
Politics of Anticipation: Exploring the performative power of climate pathways
Dr. Silke Beck
This talk examines challenges which may arise from basing policy-making on future pathways with reference to Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs) in the context of Post-Paris climate regime. This Post-Paris constellation includes at least two, mutually reinforcing challenges: firstly, science is not only asked to simply assess scientific facts about the causes of global warming (attribution), and assessing its impacts (detection). Instead, science is also expected to project and evaluate the performance of policies in the future. By providing future pathways, expert bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also offer sites where climate futures are imagined and transformed into actionable collective future and thus contribute to shape political choices in the present. Secondly, the talk explores what role is attributed to emerging technologies such as NETs in scientific projections of climate futures. The role of pathways based on speculative technologies in climate politics is rarely understood. The talk concludes by addressing democratic implications for climate politics based on future pathways.
Silke Beck’s research focuses on the role of expertise in environmental policy-making. Recently, Beck is the principal investigator of the GoST project as part of the Belmont-Norface research programme “Transformation towards Sustainability”. She is the co-leader of UFZ’s Science-Policy Expert Group (SPEG) which has contributed to a variety of practical attempts to integrate research insights into recent assessment activities, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the BiodiversityKnowledge network, most prominently, United Nations’ TEEB study “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity” (2007-2010).
Carbon removal from below: Understanding global imaginaries of "negative emissions" at the landscape scale
Dr. Holly Jean Buck
Curbing global warming to 1.5°C requires removing carbon from the atmosphere. In modeled scenarios, this is done via assuming massive afforestation or the deployment of "negative emissions" technologies that capture carbon and store it underground. There's a growing interest on the part of policymakers, NGOs, and civil society in removing carbon — alternately understood as providing “negative emissions”, carbon drawdown, regeneration, carbontech, or building a carbon-to-value economy. However, the global-scale imperative tends to elide issues of who is imagined to benefit from carbon removal, and who does the work of removing it. Carbon removal would happen in particular regions and communities, creating frictions as well as potential opportunities. This talk focuses on decarbonization technologies in one particular landscape: the Imperial Valley in southeast California, a desert landscape highly engineered for industrial agriculture and increasingly shaped by climate mitigation goals. Drawing from semi-structured interviews and site visits, I examine how community actors have received, participated in, imagined, or contested solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuels, and draw out some implications for carbon removal technologies from these results. Looking through the lens of the landscape scale helps us see how assessing carbon removal options is not just a question of helping policymakers choose particular "winning" technologies. Rather, the choices about how these technologies are employed and whom they benefit or harm are crucial choices for policymakers at varying scales, and these policy choices can determine whether carbon removal ever scales up to influence the global climate.
Holly Jean Buck is a NatureNet postdoctoral fellow at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. She holds a PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University and an MSc in Human Ecology from Lund University.