The Emergent Politics of Geoengineering

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


This thesis examines the role of science in the earliest stages of the political process. It does this by studying the emergence of ‘geoengineering’ on the political agenda. The term describes a set of ideas on how to stabilize global temperature by intervening into the Earth’s natural systems, and was subject to a strong taboo in the scientific community until the mid-2000s. Yet within a decade, it has become relevant to international climate politics. To understand how this transition took place, the thesis uses mixed methods to study the causal mechanisms by which geoengineering became an object of governance. Paper I describes the internal dynamics of a scientific community that helped transform geoengineering into a distinct, salient and malleable governance object. It explains how social cohesion, brokerage and diversity acted as important mechanisms in this process. Paper II studies the role of authoritative scientific assessments in making geoengineering a normal and relevant topic for research. It shows how such assessments act as a form of de facto governance in shaping the activities of a research landscape. Paper III identifies similarities and differences in the way that different sub-areas of climate change policy are governed. It suggests that, if a problem structure is perceived to be malign, this makes it less conducive to public governance. Conversely, if a problem structure comes to be perceived as more benign, this facilitates public governance. Paper IV examines the role of problem definition and ‘institutional fit’, evaluating how geoengineering matches with the expectations of government actors. It discusses three areas where such fit is lacking, and how this makes it difficult for government officials to form a political position on geoengineering. The results of this study flow into the description of a pattern that seems to be important at many different stages of the opinion-shaping process. This pattern includes the introduction of a topic to a new audience; the audience’s heated debate around this topic; the intervention of an actor with authority; and the streamlining of the audience’s debate according to the authoritative actor’s judgement. Found at many different levels of the political process, the pattern may explain why some topics become subject to political decision making, and others do not.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science


  • Norms, Policy emergence, Agenda setting, Climate change, political community, sociological institutionalism, Science policy interface
Translated title of the contributionHur geoengineering blir politik
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2019 May 10
Place of PublicationLund
  • Lund University
Print ISBNs978-91-7895-077-5
Electronic ISBNs978-91-7895-078-2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May 10
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2019-05-10 Time: 10:15 Place: Edens auditorium, Paradisgatan 5H, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Falkner, Robert Title: Doctor Affiliation: London School of Economics ---

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Related research output

Gupta, A. & Ina Möller, 2019, In : Environmental Politics. 28, 3, p. 480-501

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