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Governing geoengineering research for the Great Barrier Reef

McDonald,Jan, Jeffrey McGee, Kerryn Brent & Wil Burns. 2019. Governing geoengineering research for the Great Barrier Reef. Climate Policy, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp. 801-811

Abstract

Coral reefs are highly vulnerable to the impacts of rising marine temperatures and marine heatwaves. Mitigating dangerous climate change is essential and urgent, but many reef systems are already suffering on current levels of warming. Geoengineering options are worth exploring to protect the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) from extreme warming conditions, but we contend that they require strong governance and public consultation from the outset. Australian governments are currently funding feasibility testing of three geoengineering proposals for the GBR. Each proposal involves manipulating ocean or atmospheric conditions to lower water temperatures and thereby reduce the threat of mass coral bleaching events. Innovative strategies to protect the GBR and field testing of these is essential, but current laws do not guarantee robust governance for field testing of these technologies. Nor do they provide the foundation for a more coherent national policy on climate intervention technologies more generally. Responsible governance frameworks, including detailed risk assessment and early public consultation, are necessary for geoengineering research to build legitimacy and promote scientific progress.

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