No to the Dangers of Geoengineering: An open letter to the IPCC

Posted on June 16, 2011


Rajendra K. Pachauri

Chairman of the IPCC

C/O World Meteorological Organization

7bis Avenue de la Paix

C.P. 2300

CH – 1211Geneva2,Switzerland

Dear Dr. Pachauri,

The undersigned organizations would like to express our concerns about the upcoming IPCC joint working group expert meeting on geoengineering to be held in Lima, Peru, June 20-22, 2011.

Geoengineering, the intentional large-scale manipulation of the Earth’s systems to modify the climate, is one of the most serious issues the international community will face in the decades ahead. The prospects of artificially changing the chemistry of our oceans to absorb more CO2, modifying the Earth’s radiative balance, devising new carbon sinks in fragile ecosystems, redirecting hurricanes and other extreme weather events are alarming. The potential for accidents, dangerous experiments, inadequate risk assessment, unexpected impacts, unilateralism, private profiteering, disruption of agriculture, inter-state conflict, illegitimate political goals and negative consequences for the global South is high. The likelihood that geoengineering will provide a safe, lasting, democratic and peaceful solution to the climate crisis is non-existent.

The IPCC aims to be “policy relevant” and “policy neutral,” and must take great care not to squander its credibility on geoengineering, a topic that is gathering steam precisely when there is no real progress on mitigation and adaptation. The IPCC’s announcement of the expert meeting already suggests that geoengineering has a place in the portfolio of legitimate responses to climate change (a highly contestable claim), and that the role of the IPCC is to define what that role is. Permit us to stress that this is not primarily a scientific question; it is a political one. International peasant organizations, indigenous peoples, and social movements have all expressed outright opposition to such measures as a false solution to the climate crisis.

The Scientific Steering Group of this expert meeting includes well-known geoengineering advocates who have called for steep increases in funding for research and for proceeding with experimentation, as well as scientists who have patents pending on geoengineering technologies and/or other financial interests. Asking a group of geoengineering scientists if more research should be done on the topic is like asking a group of hungry bears if they would like honey. Their predictable answer should be viewed with skepticism. At the same time, independent organizations, which have devoted years of critical research to geoengineering, are not allowed to participate, even as observers.

Furthermore, we are concerned that the IPCC appears to be wading into waters beyond its expertise and mandate. The expert meeting, for instance, describes “appropriate governance mechanisms” as part of its mandate, and participants will discuss the “suitability of existing governance mechanisms for managing geoengineering, including social, legal and political factors.” This is a crucial discussion that has already begun at the international level among governments and civil society, most notably at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Japanin 2010. That meeting agreed to adopt a de facto moratorium on real- world experimentation until a number of conditions are met. The critical question of governance is one that needs to be fully debated by the international community, with all interested states, civil society organizations, indigenous peoples and farmers’ organizations taking part in a clearly democratic, multilateral transparent and accountable way. Scientists from the IPCC should participate in that debate, but they do not have the expertise or legitimacy to determine the suitability of existing governance mechanisms.

In the months ahead, as the Fifth Assessment Report is prepared, civil society organizations concerned with climate change and geoengineering will closely scrutinize the IPCC’s work. In particular, we will look for the IPCC to come out clearly and strongly in favour of the strict application of the precautionary principle and against any real- world geoengineering experimentation.

On the expert meeting, before its report is published and its conclusions are shared more broadly, we urge the IPCC to ensure that a variety of civil society voices is heard, understood, and taken into account, particularly from the global South. This will provide much- needed common sense and a global perspective, as well as a counterpoint to the more prominent and extreme positions of some Northern scientists engaged in geoengineering research.

We thank you for your attention to these issues and look forward to your reply.

Signatory organizations as of June 13th, 2011


African Biodiversity Network, Africa, international

ATALC –  Amigos de la Tierra America Latina y Caribe, Latin America, international

Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indígenas – CAOI, Andean, international

ETC group, international

Friends of the Earth International

Global Forest Coalition, International

Global Justice Ecology Project, International

GRAIN, International

Land is Life, international network of indigenous communities and organizations

Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, International

International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), US / international

OILWATCH Sudamérica, international

Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Africa, International

RALLT, Red por una América Latina libre de Transgénicos, Latin America, international

Red Latinoamericana contra los Monocultivos de Árboles (RECOMA), Latin America,


Redmanglar Internacional, Guatemala, international

Temple of Understanding US/ international

Third World Network, international

Via Campesina, International Peasant Movement, international

World Future Council Foundation, international

World Rainforest Movement / Mov. Mundial de Bosques, international Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Inc, Australia

Acción Ecológica, Ecuador

Acción por la Biodiversidad, Argentina

ADEID, Action pour un Développement Équitable, Intégré etDurable, Cameroon

African Centre forBiosafety, South Africa

AllianceSud, Switzerland

Amigosda Terra, Brazil

Amigu di Tera FoE Curaçao, Brazil

APUNA, Andhra Pradesh United Nations Association, India

Asociación ANDES, Cusco, Perú

Bio WILD Foundation, Biodiversity and Wildlife Integration for Livelihood Development, INDIA

Biofuelwatch, UK/ US

Casifop, México

Ceccam, México

Cenami, México

Censat Agua Viva, Colombia

Center for Cultural Interchange and Greenheart,USA

Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project, Durban, South Africa

Centro Ecológico IPÉ, Brazil

Centro Ecologista  Renacer, Argentina

Centro Fray Julián Garcés de Derechos Humanos y Desarrollo Comunitario, México

CESTA, Amigos de la Tierra El Salvador


Colectivo COA, México

Colectivo Voces Ecológicas COVEC, Panamá

Consejo de Ejidos y Comunidades Opositores a la Presa La Parota (CECOP), México

Cook Islands Climate Action Network (CICAN), Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Cooperativa por un Ambiente Biodiverso y Sustentable, CAMBIOS, R.L., México

Corner House, UK

Cuarto Menguante Aliento por la conservación A.C., México

Dewan Adat Papua, New Guinea

Dogwood Alliance-  Asheville, NC, USA

Ecological Society of the Philippines

Ecologistas en Acción, Spain

Ecomunidades, red ecologista autónoma de lacuencade México

Educación AT Argentina

CEIBA AT, Guatemala

Ethiopian Society or Consumer Protection, Ethiopia

Fair Coop (Fair Trade), Italy

Family Farm Defenders, Madison, Wi, USA

FASE, Brazil

Fondation Sciences Citoyennes, France

Frente de Pueblosen Defensa de la Tierra y el Agua, Región Malinche, México

Friends of the Earth U.S.

Food First, US

Fundación Heifer-Ecuador

Fundación por el Futuro, Madrid, España

Fundación Promotora de Cooperativas – FUNPROCOOP, El Salvador

Gaia Foundation, UK

GMWatch, UK

Greenovation Center, China

Grupo SEMILLAS, Colombia

Grupo Thunhupha, Bolivia

IBON International, Philippines

Indian biodiversity forum, India

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA

Instituteof Science in Society, Mae- Wan Ho, UK

Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo, Ecuador.

International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation USA

Institute for Social Ecology, USA

ITC, Comité Intertribal, Brazil

Island Sustainability Alliance CIS Inc (ISACI) Rarotonga, COOKISLANDS

Movimiento Madre Tierra, Honduras

Ka Lahui Hawai’i

Kiee Lu’u S.S.S.  México

L’Union Paysanne, Canada

La Asamblea Veracruzana de Iniciativa y Defensa Ambiental (LAVIDA), México

Mangrove Action Project,USA

Movimiento de la Juventud Kuna, Panamá

Movimiento por la Vida y la Equidad Campesina, El Salvador

Na Koa Ikaika Ka Lahui Hawaii

National Indigenous Peoples of SolomonsIslands (NIPS), Solomon Islands

National Toxics Network Inc. Coordinator, Australia

New World Society For Friendship Cooperation And Peace, India

Ngati Hine tribe of the Bay Of Islands, New Zealand

Nusa Alifuru of Maluku (Pacific, considered Indonesian)

Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales – OLCA, Chile

OFRANEH, Organizacion Fraternal Negra Hondureña, Honduras

Ole Siosiomaga Society Incorporated (OLSSI), SAMOA

Organización de Agricultores Biológicos A. C., México

Philippinenbuero e.V. im Asienhaus; Germany

Proceso de Comunidades Negras de Colombia

Rainforest Rescue –  Rettet den Regenwald,Germany


Red de Coordinación en Biodiversidad, Costa Rica

Rede Brazileira de Pesquisas em Nanotecnologia  –  RENANOSOMA, Brazil

REDES AT, Uruguay

SAFEAGE, Observatory, Cape Town,S outh Africa

Salva laSelva, Spain

Savia, Escuela de Pensamiento Ecologista, Guatemala

SEARICE Philippines

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership, United States

Sunray Harvesters, India

SWISSAID, Switzerland

Seeds Action Network, Germany Terra de Direitos, Human Rights Organization- Brazil

Terra- 1530, Moldova

Texas Drought Project, USA

The Development Fund, Norway

The Enviro Show, Western Massachusetts/USA

The Koani Foundation, Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii

The Noordhoek Environmental Action Group, Noordhoek, Cape Town, South Africa

Un Salto de Vida, AC, El Salto, Jalisco, México

US Federation for Middle East Peace (USFMEP), USA