The impact of climate change will appear as more intense storms, sea level rise, extreme weather, impacts to ecosystems and biodiversity. These forces will only intensify in years to come. This will increase political and economic pressure to identify “quick fixes.” In this context, the likelihood increases that state or even sub-state actors might pursue some form of large-scale activity to intentionally change the climate of the planet, that is, climate engineering. Underlying the possible adoption of any such action is a collective belief that humans can effectively and ethically engineer the planet at the largest scales. But, under what conditions might such beliefs emerge?

The objective of this Co-Lab is to bring together social psychologists, decision scientists, and engineers to begin the conceptual, theoretical, and empirical research needed to understand how people interpret climate engineering in the context of the large-scale earth systems that they would seek to alter.

The CoLab will explore these concepts within the Chesapeake Bay watershed because it contains growing and vulnerable coastal cities, much of the US federal government, and significant amounts of farmland, power plants, and water infrastructure. Integrated modeling will be used to understand how region-specific impacts can inform global-scale analysis.

Understanding the conditions under which laypeople and experts trust scientists and government to alter the climate will help us predict how people will respond to the prospect of climate engineering; and to better understand what kinds of arguments may be formulated to support or oppose it. This understanding is needed, for example, to identify interventions that might help people more deliberately consider the potential benefits and costs of climate engineering.