When it comes to engineering planetary sunshades or carbon sinks, there is no crystal ball. But economists, climate modelers, scholars of technology governance, and futurists have generated numerous methods by which to explore the future: from simulating natural or societal dynamics in models, to horizon-scanning surveys that generate educated speculation, to scenarios that imagine experimental depictions of an engineered climate. But each method comes with different objectives, ‘ways of knowing’ the future, communities of usage, and access to decision-making processes. Separately, how can we compare them? As a whole, how is knowledge and decision-making - on potentially game-changing technologies that don’t exist – better served? Are we predicting the future, exploring possibilities, presenting alternatives, or setting our own conceptions of the future into play?
Sean Low is a research associate at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany. His research focuses on the uses and limits of scenario and gaming methods, as part of anticipatory frameworks for the governance of emerging technologies, to explore how solar geoengineering approaches can be assessed and regulated. Sean has previously done research on the politics of climate engineering and global climate politics at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and the University of Waterloo (Canada).