Nicholas Gallie

University of Sussex

PhD researcher

My Thesis' Abstract
My research is focused on climate engineering (CE) discourse. I am interested to understand how, where and by whom CE is being positioned in relation to mainstream carbon reduction initiatives, and how CE might come to engage with the prevailing climate mitigation regime.

I ask two questions; how might CE’s positioning evolve under the influence of prospective or actual internal climate systems forcing and how might it evolve in the face of a receding threat of internal system forcing? I ask these questions under two very different circumstances.

First, under circumstances where the international community has committed to immediate, rapid and deep decarbonisation of the global economy, in line with IPCC advice.

And secondly under circumstances where the international community has failed to commit to immediate, rapid and deep decarbonization, preferring to further delay substantive collective action on climate change.

I choose to focus on the Arctic cryosphere as one potential source of discursive disruption. In recent years the Arctic cryosphere has undergone state changes outside of predicted parameters. Loss of albedo and a potential mass release of methane from melting permafrost are among a number of internal climate system forcings that have been discussed in relation to these changes. This discourse may come to alter perceptions of the manageability of the global climate as well as the consequences of an accelerated warming. State changes to the Arctic cryosphere may also have major geo-political consequences if, as has also been anticipated, predicted and actual impacts of forced climate change fall unevenly among powerful nation states. I ask, how might CE discourse be affected by such discursive turns (of an increasing and decreasing threat) and I ask this under both the contexts outlined above, that is, under conditions where a discourse of climate emergency has become dominant and under conditions where climate change has been broadly sidelined in favour of other expediencies.

My research seeks to differentiate among discourses associated with specific CE technologies in an attempt to identify which among these would be most susceptible to disruption by association with Arctic geophysics (and geo-politics) and which most resilient.
My research is primarily future focused, although it will include an historical analysis of CE discourse through an examination of its canonical texts. Real time events may or may not play a major role as the project unfolds. In their absence, the project will proceed on a scenario basis.
Methodologically, my analysis of CE discourse will draw on the major academic and media texts associated with CE to date; texts associated with recent and ongoing state changes to the Arctic cryosphere and their climatic,economic and political implications; academic and media analysis of COP 21 with respect to forward decarbonisation strategies and any positioning of CE that emerges.
The possible intrusion of CE into the prevailing climate mitigation regime can also be considered from a transitions perspective as a climate mitigation regime centred upon, or heavily dependent on CE would arguably evolve very differently from one relying essentially on economic decarbonisation. I will therefore include elements of transitions discourse within my analysis.

Analysis of texts will be supported by analysis of semi structured interviews to be conducted with key producers of CE discourse and strategically placed producers of Arctic, climate change and transitions discourse.

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