Original Paper

International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 375-389

First online:

Geoengineering and global warming: a strategic perspective

  • Johannes UrpelainenAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Columbia University Email author 

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If major emitters fail to mitigate global warming, they may have to resort to geoengineering techniques that deflect sunlight from planet Earth and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In this article, I develop a strategic theory of geoengineering. I emphasize two key features of geoengineering. First, whereas emissions reductions can be mandated now, geoengineering techniques are only available in the future. Second, major powers can unilaterally implement geoengineering projects that may hurt other countries. My game-theoretic analysis demonstrates that unilateral geoengineering presents a difficult governance problem if it produces negative externalities in foreign countries. Interestingly, countries may be tempted to reduce emissions now, so as to prevent a harmful geoengineering race in the future. The theoretical results can help scholars and policymakers understand the relationship between climate mitigation and geoengineering.


Global warming Climatepolicy Geoengineering International cooperation Strategy Game theory