MASTERS WINNER OF THE EXCEPTIONAL RESEARCH AWARD

Toward global governance of solar radiation management

Niklas Lehmann

Solar geoengineering is a potentially dangerous means of attempting to control the climate that many countries have the technological capability to deploy. If used in an uncoordinated or irresponsible way, it could undermine international cooperation and increase the risk of conflict. This thesis examines the potential for an international treaty on solar geoengineering to promote peace and stability.

A reviewer wrote, ‘I thought this was a truly exceptional thesis. The student reviews and makes a substantial contribution to the neglected and important issue of geoengineering governance…I found their analysis clear and compelling, and believe that they have substantially improved upon existing work and offer a clear jumping off point for further research, which very much hope the student will be willing to undertake.’

This research relates to our research directions on preventing great power war and great power coordination.

Researcher profile

DSC05463_Niklas

Niklas Lehmann

Niklas studied economics and business administration after having studied Mechanical Engineering. He decided to switch to economics to broaden his skillset and because he found economic questions fascinating. Currently, Niklas is working as a research associate at the TU Freiberg, where he intends to further explore forecasting technological and social changes.

Researcher profile

What was your thesis topic

My thesis explores the social implications of solar radiation management, also known as solar geoengineering. The main research questions I aimed to answer were: If nations take the technological possibility of solar geoengineering seriously, what could be the implications? Will nations implement solar geoengineering unilaterally? Will nations form coalitions and cooperate? Will conflict ensue?

In what ways do you think your topic improves the world?

Solar geoengineering is likely to become an additional issue of international and political debate in the future. We still have time to try to manage solar geoengineering as best as possible, which would contribute to fostering cooperation and peace in international relations.

In what ways have you changed your mind since you finished writing it?

I took a game-theoretic approach to analyzing the situation. Although this distilled the core of the problem, it is not effective at making predictions about what might happen. Other means of prediction, such as scenario exercises, might be more useful for this. Additionally, I customized my thesis for the professors reviewing it. In retrospect, I should have written for an anonymous reviewer, such as is the case for the Effective Thesis Award. This would have incentivized me to produce clear, unbiased results that are accessible to a wide audience.

What recommendations would you make to others interested in taking a similar direction with their research?

Do not hesitate to reach out to junior researchers like myself. This is often the quickest way of understanding what research in the chosen field might look like. I chose solar geoengineering as my topic because I was able to make progress quickly, within a couple of months. This is still true today, as the field is relatively small and many questions remain unexplored. I highly encourage further research in this area, as outlined in numerous papers.

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