Interdisciplinary Research on the Risks of Technological Interventions in the Global Climate System


The German Research Foundation (DFG) has decided to provide funding for a DFG Priority Program on Climate Engineering. Researchers from the Department of Political Science at RWTH Aachen University have contributed to the successful proposal.


Both science and the public largely agree that global climate change may have threatening impacts on humankind and nature. Strategies to combat climate change that focused on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions so far have been only moderately successful. Possible solutions may be provided by new large-scale technological approaches, such as partially “shielding” the earth from solar radiation. One approach seeks to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, another to capture CO2 emissions and sequester them in geological formations.

The risks, challenges and opportunities involved in such "Climate Engineering“ or "Climate Geoengineering“ techniques demand further research in several fields, including the natural sciences, engineering, ecology, economy, politics, and ethics.

In order to meet these research requirements and address this topical and pressing problematic from different perspectives, the DFG Senate has now approved the “Climate Engineering: Risks, Challenges, Opportunities“ Priority Program (SPP 1689).

Professor Daniel Barben, VDI Professor of Futures Studies at RWTH Aachen, has significantly contributed to the success of the proposal application. He is member of a core group of 19 applicants from all over Germany. Barben will contribute his expertise in Science and Technology Studies as well as Futures Studies. Coordinator of the Priority Program is Professor Andreas Oschlies of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel.

Aims of the Priority Program

The participating researchers will investigate the possible problems and hazards of Climate Engineering in an unprecedented breadth and depth. In this way, the project seeks to provide a sound scientific basis for the evaluation of possible benefits and hazards.

With projects of this scope and significance, it is important to involve the public through outreach activities. For this reason, in September 2011, the Kiel Earth Institute and the Marsilius Kolleg at Heidelberg University have launched the Climate Engineering web portal. The website is maintained by Nils Matzner, research assistant at RWTH’s Chair of Futures Research. This portal and the website of the Priority Program provide current news and information on the topic of Climate Engineering and communicate the activities of the program to the wider public.

For further information, please visit the DFG web pages concerned with the Priority Program Climate Engineering (in German). Proposals for the first funding period can be submitted until September 30, 2012.