The proposal for a new geological epoch dominated by human activity – the Anthropocene – highlights the planet-shaping power of technologies. Their diverse roles in causing, responding to, and reducing environmental impacts are increasingly evident.
Emerging technologies are fundamentally changing how humans interact with Earth systems. Although humanity’s impacts on Earth systems have thus far been largely unintentional, some new technologies would enable us to deliberately alter our environment. Large-scale interventions in Earth systems to remove greenhouse gases are part of mainstream climate scenarios. Scattering sunlight to counteract climate change is increasingly taken seriously. New biotechnologies, such as CRISPR-powered gene drives, could allow the intentional local eradication of invasive species or disease vectors or even the reintroduction of extinct species. Other emerging technologies change how we understand and manage Earth systems. For example, digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, digital ledgers, and “big data” may reshape the development and enforcement of environmental regulation.
These technologies pose numerous challenging questions, especially for governance. Who is included in decision making, and who appears presently absent? Who will benefit, and who might lose out? Will these technologies alter or reinforce existing power relations and distributions of resources? Do they enhance or hinder democratic participation and various frameworks of justice? What is the role of corporate power in governance and are new mechanisms of public control necessary? Are novel institutions, rules, and norms needed, or can we adapt extant ones to legitimately govern new and emerging technologies? To what extent can and should governance anticipate technological developments?
The ESG Taskforce on New Technologies facilitates communication, cooperation, and collaboration among scholars of environmental governance and regulating emerging technologies. It also raises the profiles of technologies in environmental governance scholarship, as well as that of environmental governance in the scholarship of regulating emerging technologies. The Taskforce’s members are diverse with respect to disciplines, methodologies, research questions, and normative priors.
If you are interested in joining, please contact Jesse Reynolds, University of California, Los Angeles
Associated Earth System Governance Scientific Steering Committee members, lead faculty, and senior research fellows: