Abstract This study contributes to a growing body of research that studies how different societal actors view climate engineering (CE) in an effort to ‘open up’ received framings and make them amenable to deliberations. CE is an umbrella term for different proposals of how to counteract global warming with technological means, some of which have sparked controversy. Drawing on fifteen interviews, the study explores how scientists who advise the European Commission on research funding priorities regarding climate change and sustainability view CE. They considered CE as treating the symptoms rather than the causes of climate change, as interfering in complex and unpredictable natural systems, and as engendering questions of distributive justice. They also stressed the complexity of governing climate change and expressed support for basic CE research. The concluding discussion dwells on the implications of foresight, the division of labor in research governance, and the challenge of poverty for governing technologies in the service of climate action. 1. Introduction Once an arcane topic of occasional discussion among a few climate scientists (cf. Morton 2015: 332), climate engineering (CE, also known as geo-engineering) has moved into the climate and science policy spotlight during the past decade. CE is an umbrella term for technological proposals to influence the climate system on a global scale in order to counteract global warming (The Royal Society 2009: xi). The categorization of what climate action proposals count as CE and how they may be dealt with for governance purposes has not stabilized (cf. Bellamy et al. 2012; Heyward 2013; Boucher et al. 2014; Baatz et al. 2016: 2). However, these proposals are held together by the vision that technology-assisted planetary management may, if appropriately and cautiously implemented, provide temporary respite until the world economy has decarbonized (Crutzen 2006; Keith 2014; Morton 2015). While most of these proposals only exist in artist renderings and parameters of computer models (Stilgoe 2015), the idea of technologically afforded respite is beginning to affect policy discussions in concrete terms. Computer models of emission scenarios now routinely integrate the (highly speculative) assumption that (energy) technologies will be available by the latter part of the twenty-first century that remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than add, including many of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2ºC scenarios (Fuss et al. 2014; Anderson 2015). Indeed, small groups of scientists in the UK (cf. Bawden 2016) and the USA (Long et al. 2015) now underwrite their calls for CE research with the argument that a 2ºC target, or the more ambitious goals of the Paris agreement (cf. Article 2.1.a),1 cannot be reached without massive investment into CE research. Scholarship inspired by Science and Technology Studies has problematized that while there is tremendous uncertainty about the technical feasibility and effectiveness of CE proposals, they are nonetheless treated as quasi technologies in debates on how to govern them (e.g. Cairns 2014; Healey 2014; Bellamy 2016; Bellamy and Lezaun 2017; Stilgoe 2015). Emerging technologies are constructed with the help of theories and material artifacts, as well as discursive elements like visions and promises, which are equally important to stabilize them as coherent entities (Selin 2007). The latter not only project visions about technological capabilities into the future, but also (and often implicitly) images of social order; they constitute ‘sociotechnical imaginaries’ (Jasanoff and Kim 2013) that shape society independently of whether the promises of the technologies at their core are actually fulfilled. Promises do not make the outcomes of technological innovation more predictable, yet they may generate legitimacy and stabilize a particular imaginary of the future. And it is this ‘cognitive path dependence’ that warrants critical examination (Cairns 2014; Bellamy and Lezaun 2017). In that spirit, Bellamy (2016) suggests that governing CE ought to start with questioning the very legitimacy of CE as an object of governance, as well as with reflexive foresight of the social contexts in which CE might intervene. He further cautions that democratic legitimacy and value implications must be considered alongside technical criteria when appraising climate policy pathways. Procedural steps to support these principles include engaging a wide array of lay and expert publics, as well as resisting ramping up research funding and practice slow science that has room for reflexivity and interdisciplinarity (Bellamy 2016; Stilgoe 2015: 177). The present study contributes to this project by investigating the assumptions, values and commitments that underpin views on CE by actors in the research funding arena. Past studies have focused on framings in the news media (Scholte et al. 2013; Anshelm and Hansson 2014a,b; 2015), the scholarly literature (Hansson 2014; Huttunen and Hildén 2014; Harnisch et al. 2015), lay people focus groups (Corner et al. 2013; Macnaghten and Szerszynski 2013; Bellamy and Lezaun 2017; Wibeck et al. 2015), and expert stakeholder interviews (Bellamy et al. 2013; Cairns 2013; Mercer 2014). Yet there are no dedicated studies on how actors who advise or deliberate on the allocation of strategic research funding view CE proposals. There are several reasons why the research funding arena and the views on CE held by people therein are important for the critical examination of CE as a sociotechnical project. First, research funding priorities potentially influence the cognitive development and stabilization of a techno-scientific field (Braun 1998). As Healey (2014: 31) points out, the CE research community is epistemologically fragmented and funding is too low and dispersed across (a small number of) national initiatives to afford the formation of an autonomous research field with dedicated careers and stable research networks. Changes in funding priorities, however likely, thus hold the potential to make or break CE as a unitary field of investigation. Second, formulating research strategies does not take place in contextual isolation as there are always competing techno-scientific projects that vie for the same funding. This places CE proposals in competition with other approaches to climate action and helps to overcome the problem of contextual isolation evident in early CE assessment that only compared CE proposals among themselves (cf. Bellamy et al. 2012). Third, expert groups deliberating future directions for science—the allocation of strategic funding being an instance of this—are often very interdisciplinary (Lamont 2009; Stucke 2011) and their mission requires a high degree of interactional expertise—‘expertise in the language of a specialism in the absence of expertise in its practice’ (Collins and Evans 2007: 28). Their task may be characterized as advising on strategies that bring about future technical knowledge, expertise, and material artifacts, more so than reporting on the state of the art of these new knowledge domains. Such strategies, in turn, are informed by representations of what the problem at stake is, as well as by assumptions about how innovation and social change work. Empirically, the article draws on the research funding arena of the European Commission. The Commission is one of the biggest funders of sustainability-themed research, and, through the European Research Area, sustains and fosters a complex network of actors who circulate ideas across different levels and regions of Europe. Concretely, I present the analysis of fifteen interviews which I conducted with scientists who are each member in one of three committees that advise the European Commission on funding priorities in the sustainability domain. For the purpose of this article, I conceive of these three committees primarily as a sampling device to access, capture, and analyze ideas that circulate within networks of European science policy; the committees’ advisory activity is secondary for this concern. Presenting and discussing these ideas contributes to the diversification of vantage points from which CE proposals may be appraised.2 The article proceeds as follows: in the next section, I summarize what we have thus far learned about the views on CE expressed in the news media and the scientific literature, as well as by different publics engaged with the topic through focus groups and interviews. I then detail my empirical approach before presenting five key themes from the empirical analysis. In the concluding discussion, I dwell on the implications of foresight, the division of labor in research governance, and the challenge of poverty for governing technologies in the service of climate action. 2. Opening up CE It is by now well known that the 2006 editorial by Paul Crutzen (2006) in the journal Climatic Change helped establish CE as a serious science and climate policy issue, notably by articulating a sentiment of political pessimism shared by many climate scientists (cf. Stehr 2012). In the wake of Crutzen’s editorial interest in CE rose dramatically, leading to rapid growth of scientific publishing (Belter and Seidel 2013; Oldham et al. 2014; Linnér and Wibeck 2015) and print media coverage (Scholte et al. 2013; Anshelm and Hansson 2015; Harnisch et al. 2015). This section synthesizes the main findings of studies that seek to ‘open up’—that is, critically examine assumptions and diversify appraisal perspectives (Stirling 2008)–CE as an object of political debate in scientific and public arenas. They include analyses of scientific and media discourses, as well as interviews and focus groups with different stakeholder publics. The print media discourse was initially dominated by an advocacy perspective, but the spectrum of views gradually broadened and became increasingly critical after 2014 (Anshelm and Hansson 2015). In a simultaneous development, natural science publications have become outnumbered by social science articles in academic journals (Linnér and Wibeck 2015). These discursive spheres are not very distinct as the pro and contra-arguments advanced in the media and scientific publications closely resemble each other (cf. Heyward and Rayner 2013; Anshelm and Hansson 2014a; Huttunen and Hildén 2014). The pro discourse legitimizes exploring CE as an option of climate action by pointing to possible climate emergencies that would require quick-acting instruments, as well as the respite these instruments could afford for solving the root problem of climate change. This discourse is unusually reflexive about natural as well as social risks and does not promise a better world, merely one spared from catastrophe (Anshelm and Hansson 2014b; Linnér and Wibeck 2015). Critical perspectives differ most notably regarding the desirability of planetary management inherent in the advocacy perspective (Heyward and Rayner 2013; Anshelm and Hansson 2014a; Huttunen and Hildén 2014). They call out the hubris of believing that the highly complex earth system would be amenable to control, let alone democratic control, and denounce that developing such capabilities does nothing to address the root cause of climate change; there is consequentially no point in even conducting basic research on CE (Szerszynski et al. 2013; Hulme 2014). Surveys of the general public (Mercer et al. 2011; Pidgeon et al. 2012; Merk et al. 2015), public engagement through focus groups, and interviews with lay people as well as climate policy stakeholders (Bellamy et al. 2013; Cairns 2013; Corner et al. 2013; Macnaghten and Szerszynski 2013; Bellamy et al. 2016; Bellamy and Lezaun 2017; Wibeck et al. 2015) reveal a similar argumentative picture in terms of support or opposition to CE research and deployment. The generally limited support for CE research is conditional on trust in science and the belief of human mastery of nature (Mercer et al. 2011; Merk et al. 2015), whereas rejection of such proposals are motivated with arguments about CE being a fix rather than a real solution to climate change, concerns about intervening in nature, and concerns about governance (cf. Macnaghten and Szerszynski 2013; Wibeck et al. 2015). This line of research points to the importance of how CE is presented for deliberation. Bellamy et al. (2013,, 2014), for instance, show that when CE proposals are presented alongside other climate policy options, they are seen much less favorably than when they are only compared among themselves. Similarly, when realistic conditions are introduced into debates, participants in engagement exercises become more skeptical (Macnaghten and Szerszynski 2013). There is also a discussion about to what extent framing certain proposals as natural analogies (e.g. stratospheric sulphate injection is like emulating the effects of a volcanic eruption) creates more favorable views (Corner et al. 2013; Bellamy and Lezaun 2017; Wibeck et al. 2015). On the level of discourse, this—arguably coarse—characterization of CE framing reveals a dividing fault between modernist believes in the possibility of planetary management and its rejection as anti-democratic hubris. It should be noted, however, that these discursive pattern are aggregates and mask to some extend a more complex picture of individual views and attitudes (cf. Cairns 2013). 3. Empirical approach To select interview participants, I queried the European Commission’s expert registry3, searching for scientists whose professional expertise pertains to biophysical, social and technical systems affected by climate change, and who are members of advisory committees that relate to these concerns. I contacted forty-three candidates and got to interview fifteen of them—seven women and eight men (Table 1). Table 1. Interviewees’ pseudonyms and their professional backgrounds Pseudonym Committee Expertise Alex B Energy engineering Carin C Bioeconomy Chloé A Bioeconomy Cecilia A Causes and consequences of climate change David B Energy engineering Dominic B Energy engineering Emilia A Causes and consequences of climate change Frank B Technology policy Hans A Causes and consequences of climate change Jenny B Technology policy Julia B Technology policy Marina C Bioeconomy Oscar B Energy engineering Robert A Causes and consequences of climate change Thomas A Causes and consequences of climate change Pseudonym Committee Expertise Alex B Energy engineering Carin C Bioeconomy Chloé A Bioeconomy Cecilia A Causes and consequences of climate change David B Energy engineering Dominic B Energy engineering Emilia A Causes and consequences of climate change Frank B Technology policy Hans A Causes and consequences of climate change Jenny B Technology policy Julia B Technology policy Marina C Bioeconomy Oscar B Energy engineering Robert A Causes and consequences of climate change Thomas A Causes and consequences of climate change European advisory groups are sites of interaction where information flows in multiple directions (Gornitzka and Sverdrup 2011; Tamtik and Sá 2012; Rimkutė and Haverland 2015; Holst and Moodie 2015; Littoz Monnet 2015; Van Ballaert 2015). The three expert groups represented in the interviewee sample fit this picture, especially in regards to member selection. In most cases, the interviewees were internationally well-networked and sometimes had held domestic regulatory appointments. Some interviewees had established ties to the European Commission through previous interactions and those who lacked such connections were often part of research organizations and networks that were of interest to the Commission. Asking the interviewees about their motivations to invest their (sparse) time in European advisory work further yielded insights into the two-way flow of information. The interviewees expressed their hope to make a contribution, a point on which they wavered between doubts about the Commission’s interest to listen, a let’s do it attitude, and resignation-cum-realism about the limits of advisory work to affect policy. They also stated that they felt intellectually stimulated by networking with other group members. And they prized having privileged access to how the Commission thinks. Importantly, I did not mention CE in the interview invitation in order to not restrict the scope of discussion and to ensure that the recruiting was topic blind concerning CE. As it turned out none of the three expert groups had debated CE and only a small minority of the interviewees felt knowledgeable about the CE debate. ‘I have a general opinion about that, but I have no expertise there; I wouldn’t [want to] tell wrong things’ (Oscar) was a common reaction to the topic. The interviewees may lack the professional specialization to be labeled ‘CE experts’, yet they are not lay people because their interactional expertise in the domain of sustainability has been acquired through their professional practice, as has their status in the professional hierarchies of their respective domains of specialization. The interviews took place during August and September 2015, by phone or in person. They typically lasted an hour, but no longer than 90 min. The interviewees provided oral consent to participate in the research and to be recorded, with the assurance that they would remain anonymous. Based on a standardized topic guide, I first inquired about the respondents’ career backgrounds and their experiences of advisory work (not discussed in this article). I then introduced the topics of the human response to climate change and the affordances of technology for that purpose, before steering the conversation deliberately to CE, first by soliciting spontaneous reactions, then by introducing some of the CE debate’s common arguments, like whether the possibility of runaway climate change justifies the exploration of CE, or if researching CE subverts mitigation efforts. Where necessary, I supplied context information about the different CE proposals and the state of the scientific debate. I concluded the interview by inviting the respondents to share their hopes, fears, and priorities for a sustainable climate future. To analyze the interview transcripts and identify recurrent patterns of meaning, I drew on established principles of thematic analysis that are widely used in qualitative social research, amongst other under the label of ‘expert interview analysis’ (Meuser and Nagel 2009). Assisted by the software package Nvivo, I followed a process of progressive abstraction, or analytical hierarchy (Spencer et al. 2003), which climbs in successive steps from searching for similar thematic passages in the transcripts, to identifying those that recur in different interviews, to interpreting them in the context of the literature. Meuser and Nagel (2009: 35–6) recommend to first paraphrase each transcript, then to name/code individual units of meaning with labels that summarize the content of these textual fragments and reflect the speaker’s terminology. The next step is to compare the coded passages within and across the different interviews and look for similarities. Cross-cutting and recurring similarities form themes. Interpretation starts at this point because recognizing themes is more than aggregating codes as different fragments may be grouped in more than one way, depending on the researcher’s goal of inquiry. The analysis then proceeds to regroup these themes into meta-themes (Ely et al. 2005: 208) which are contextualized with outside sources and form the basis for the presentation of the findings. The presentation of the findings takes place in two steps. I first describe the interviewees’ view on CE through five key themes. While the interview topic guide sought to put CE proposals into the context of climate action and technology policy, the presentation of these themes brings in these contexts only where they help to interpret the interviewees’ views on CE. Some themes are more cross-cutting than others and thus bring in more elements from climate action and technology policy. In the concluding discussion I focus on three cross-cutting ideas that were implicit in how the interviewees’ constructed their views. 3. Findings 3.1 Treating symptoms Several interviewees asserted that CE, in particular stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI), is a technical fix which treats the symptoms but not the causes of climate change. I see controlling solar radiation as a symptom treatment and not getting to the root of the cause. I like to say that if you have a strep throat, you could feel a lot better by taking aspirins, but you still risk dying from the bacteria; so you have to go in and remove … the bacteria at the same time. Okey, if you use that analogy, then I guess that I would have to accept, for shorter periods as a supplement to what was going on, as you were trying to suck it out of the atmosphere or whatever. I guess maybe, possible, it could be considered. But the cause of the problem is the fact that we're altering the carbon cycle, we need to go back to the carbon cycle in order to solve the problem. We can't do it with another fix. (Emilia)More generally, SAI was seen as a technology that would displace rather than solve the root cause of climate change, creating new problems in the process, like ocean acidification. For Thomas it was ‘produc[ing] one pollution to handle another one’, a sentiment share by many in the CE community (cf. Linnér and Wibeck 2015). This reasoning closely reflects the planetary boundaries concept (Rockström et al. 2009); it postulates thresholds for a number of environmental stressors (climate change, ozone depletion, freshwater use, etc.), which are not to be exceeded should the Earth remain hospital for human civilization. It also resonates with the view of resource overconsumption that some interviewees saw as the overarching cause to environmental degradation. Carin thus urged that even if CE could offer respite, ‘we still need to find a balance between what resources we use and what services we get from that’. Remedial action was also portrayed as wasteful because, unlike reducing resource consumption, it does not generate economic value. Oscar: ‘the best energy that we have is the energy we don’t consume’. 3.2 Messing with the climate Many interview statements expressed the sentiment that CE amounts to ‘messing’, ‘fiddling’, or ‘playing’ with the atmosphere, acts that were imagined as producing unpredictable consequences. We are messing up our climate already. If we start to play with the atmosphere we have no way to control that properly. So I will recommend to stay away of this and to solve it in different ways. Because we are not trying to correct an equilibrium by putting another equilibrium in there and the construction sounds to be really, really too shaky. I find a risk not worth the reward … I think that we are starting to play there with things that we do not understand and we will not foresee the consequences. (David)David objects to ‘messing up the climate’ on ontological grounds (‘no way to control that properly’, ‘the construction sounds to be too shaky’) that translates into an epistemological problem (‘playing with things we do not understand’, ‘we will not foresee the consequences’), which leads him to judge that ‘the risk is not worth the reward’. Although David doesn’t clearly state if he is talking about a particular technological proposal, other participants that shared this view articulated it in reference to either SAI or ocean iron fertilization (OIF). Robert, for instance, related that OIF can create ‘absolute chaos in the way that oceans transform energy’, making the marine scientists in his professional community quite nervous about promoting such technology. Doubts about the possibility to control CE interventions also surfaced in some interviews during the discussion of the so-called climate emergency argument. Paleontological climate reconstructions have revealed past instances of abrupt climate change—tipping points—which have also been framed as climate emergencies. An early argument in the CE debate portrayed SAI as an instrument to mitigate such an emergency (cf. Preston 2013: 30). None of the interviewees disputed the plausibility of tipping points, but those who engaged with the argument thought it rather implausible that a technological response could be effective at the scale of the entire climate system. Even if [the climate] suddenly changes … I think that power is too large to really affect this. If the climate changes, then humans have nothing to say, it's too huge to think that we can have an effect. (Marina)As discussed in an earlier section, this ontological objection is also present in some of the scientific commentary about whether proposals like SAI should be researched in the first place (e.g. Hulme 2014). Even Oliver Morton (2015), a self-declared advocate for exploring SAI, acknowledges that SAI deployment would constitute another kind of climate change, whose effects can be managed, but not controlled as precisely as turning an imaginary global thermostat up or down. Some interviewees distinguished between CE proposals they deemed as intervening in uncontrollable and unpredictable natural systems, and locally confined and controllable ones. Planting trees, growing phytoplankton in lakes to absorb CO2, or even awe striking technical acts like a single nuclear detonation were imagined as localized in their effects. Clearly carbon capture in terms of storing CO2 in in mines or under water, that is something that’s less controversial, it’s easier and more palatable to sell than more dramatic engineering solutions such as you know ocean fertilization. I think that the latter would be, well, it is significantly resisted, and it will be resist for a long time because of the poorly understood consequences of such actions. It′s much simpler to just think of putting CO2 into a mine because one knows that the impacts of that are very very controlled. (Robert)This discrimination between CE proposals according to the degree of control, or, as one might argue, ontological complexity, cuts against the conventional distinction between the technological families of carbon management and solar radiation management, a distinction the Royal Society (2009) and the US National Academy of Sciences (National Research Council 2015a,b) helped to articulate. It does, however, align with concerns about which technologies might be governable on a national level and which ones would require multilateral cooperation (cf. Healy and Rayner 2015: 15). 3.3 Moral hazard The themes discussed so far pertain to the non-human world and express a rather univocal message: CE proposals, especially those aiming to intervene in the earth system at a large scale, are ill-fitted to combat climate change. They merely displace the problem, an untenable proposition on a limited planet. They further risk producing unintended outcomes due to the complexity of natural systems. But once the interviewees began to contextualize their views in reference to the human world, more ambiguous and plural storylines emerged. One such theme revolves around who will drive what policy agenda in response to increasingly severe manifestations of climate change. By 2050 I think that everything is going to be on the table, I find it very difficult to think … that there will not be significant pressures to consider geoengineering solutions that modify environment even further … I mean I’m not defending any of those, I’m just purely saying that once we … passed [the 2 °C] threshold, I think it’s gonna be very difficult to control any potential solution that people might want to bring to the table, particularly if they are solutions that can provide financial returns to companies and countries thinking that this is something that can be used to revitalize the industries that might be struggling in more traditional areas. (Robert)From that angle CE seems not that different from adaptation. Julia, for instance, made the argument that climate change-induced natural disasters, set to become more frequent if emissions are to grow further, will pressure politicians into privileging adaptation over mitigation. Moreover, many interviewees articulated the idea that successful climate policy will depend on the people authorizing politicians to act accordingly, which they often associated with people finally understanding climate change. The people are thus ultimately held responsible for (possibly catastrophic) climate policy choices in the future. This is an interesting twist on the so-called moral hazard argument that is prominent in both ethical debates (Baatz 2016) and public engagement studies on CE (Macnaghten and Szerszynski 2013: 470; Corner and Pidgeon 2014; Wibeck et al. 2015: 27). Moral hazard denotes the assumption in economic theory that agents take more risks when the latter are insured by a third party (cf. Preston 2013: 25). While the interviewees commonly referred to the people as the agent of moral hazard, for the ethicists and lay publics it is politicians that are in charge (and ought to be distrusted). However, not all interviewees subscribed to the Boolean logic of either/or on which the moral hazard argument is premised. The above discussed quotes were made spontaneously, but when I deliberately evoked the moral hazard argument, many found it strange. It is not a rational argument; it is sort of a political statement … that reflects the ambiguity of the political discourse. (Hans)Those critical of the moral hazard argument could not reconcile its binary character with the interdependencies that affect climate and technology policies. These interviewees argued that mitigation is an economic as well as ecological necessity, given the cost of adaptation and the ecological limits of ecosystems to adapt to changing conditions. Moreover, mobility, food, and energy are all issues that feed into climate action, yet have to respond to more interests and concerns than greenhouse gas emission, energy security being a case in point. They also criticized the argument to be overoptimistic about the capabilities of technology; only few people, Dominic argued, think that climate change can be solved by technology alone, for people who do serious research know that the possible achievements of technology remain limited. Hans succinctly captured the idea of interdependence by predicting that policy proposals soon will be routinely appraised for their impacts on or vulnerabilities to climate change, akin to environmental impact assessments. 3.4 Distributive justice Concerns about economic inequality and its consequences for climate action emerged as another human-centric theme. As a global problem climate change requires a shared global perspective, many interviewees insisted. Yet they also wondered how humanity can achieve such a shared perspective amid disparate realities in the global North and South. Jenny explained that ‘it’s very closely related to the differences in wealth across the globe, and that the developed rich countries might have one position while developing and emerging economies might have another one’. In Robert’s view, a person living in Eritrea on a dollar a day and a New York City resident with 500 times that income have very different priorities, which raises questions about what they are ready to compromise on and how to value their disparate perspectives. Some stressed that for many developing countries poverty is a more pressing problem than climate change, which should not be mistaken for complacency. These statements, first made when discussing climate politics, reference a larger discourse in multilateral climate policy, one that not only treats global inequalities in terms of population growth and development, both drivers of demand for cheap and possibly polluting energy, but also in terms of distributive justice (Roberts and Parks 2007). Some interviewees further pursued the inequality theme into the domain of technology policy by posing the question of how technology could be deployed to serve the needs of the South. They pointed to the exorbitant cost of developing sustainable energy technologies, as well as the problem of enabling access to technologies so that they benefit local livelihoods rather than the capital interests of a Western company. To illustrate this problem, Dominic pointed to people dying of HIV/AIDS in Africa because they are too poor to access treatments and not because there is no effective therapy. To put these statements into context, no interviewee portrayed technology as a panacea. Indeed, many made it clear that there is no technological fix that could compensate for political inaction and allow for a happily-ever-after scenario. So, while successfully deploying technology for the pursuit of a policy goal is always a challenge, these interviewees saw poverty as exacerbating these difficulties. Concerns about unequal access to technology also permeated the discussion of CE. Carin: ‘those countries or societies who are rich, they can use those [CE technologies] and those who don't have the money they just suffer’. Hans, too, remarked that only few countries have the ability to develop and sustain the necessary infrastructure for technologies like putting mirrors in orbit to reflect solar radiation. These concerns about limited access to CE technologies are all but absent from mainstream CE discourses, which usually communicate concern about unfettered access, the opposite scenario (but see Preston 2013: 30–1). What if an irresponsible party gained access to SAI and used it for nefarious purposes (Robock 2008; Bodansky 2013)? The predominant analogy of that discourse is nuclear containment, not Africans dying of AIDS, and several interviewees reasoned along similar lines. ‘Who should be allowed to use [SAI] and under what circumstances?’ Emilia asked, worrying about ‘what happens when China does something that stops the Indian monsoon?’ As long as you can’t change the weather then everybody adapts and says it’s happening, so I buy a raincoat. But as soon as you know that somebody is causing this rain, then you want somebody else paying your raincoat. (Marina)Liability was one security concern, political ill-will another, exemplified by the possibility of the complex infrastructure for controlling SAI being affected by political instability or exploited for particularistic interests. Hans considered such a security risk as even more worrisome than environmental risks. Emilia, too, articulated the concern that SAI might be misappropriated, but saw this risk arising from the assumption that SAI is so cheap and easy to deploy. This unilateralism argument is indeed a mainstay of SAI deliberations (e.g. The Royal Society 2009). But whether SAI is indeed technologically easy and economically efficient is increasingly doubtful (Moriyama et al. 2016). 3.5 Support for basic research In sum, the interviewees expressed themselves skeptically on CE proposals, especially if they were seen as intervening in complex systems. Learning that most interviewees spoke out in support of CE research therefore seems like a paradox. David expressed his support for basic research while simultaneously hoping that the CE research community will remain as small as it presently is. Similarly, Emilia denounced large-scale CE proposals as symptom treatments, but was quite adamant in her support for basic research: ‘I don’t think I would ever be able to bring myself to say that it should not be researched’. This ‘I don’t like the technology, but I support research’ also surfaced in the discussion of carbon capture and storage (CCS), which Oscar found a bad idea, but nonetheless affirmed that ‘[CCS] has to be studied in order to see what’s possible to do, but it will not be a solution for long-term future’. Several interviewees argued that basic CE research might discover something unexpected and useful. This is by no means a CE-specific argument; it is more of a generic case for scientific autonomy per se. The two following quotes illustrate some interesting arguments that allow close scrutiny of the case for research. My point is with all the big emission reduction we need to make you need to have a lot of options available and there’s no singular silver bullet or whatever which can solve all that. So we have to examine all the technologies and possibilities and compare the costs and other impacts of using the different ones. (Cecilia) I do believe fully in research on many different levels, I also believe in blue sky research very much because I think in the long run we need all kinds of information and we don’t know yet what we need, but yes that is definitively something that we need, so I mean doing something doesn’t mean that we have to drive something else down and I think that’s of course very important because we don’t know which scenario comes and when do we hit the kind of tipping point. (Chloé)While Cecilia’s quote is taken from the context of energy technology research, Chloé’s pertains to CE. Even though they address different technologies, the arguments are rather similar. Indeed, with only one exception the interviewees did not treat CE research any different from other climate policy-related research concerns (Julia could comprehend the intellectual fascination of manipulating a whole climate, but found it a distracting avenue). Both Cecilia and Chloé express the sentiment that we are facing a menacing future that demands bold investment in technological responses; yet to mitigate the risks arising from the uncertainty of how this future will pan out, we will need a diversified research and development (R&D) strategy. There’s no magic bullet. Some participants made the case for a diversified R&D agenda by noting that different countries have different population structures, geographies and available resources, which means that tidal energy could be imagined in the UK and solar energy in Greece, but not the other way around. The interviewees also articulated boundaries within which CE research was imaginable. The first concerns research funding. The early research and development seems a very sensible thing to be doing, to work out exactly how things would be and could be implemented and how much they would cost and everything else … But until that’s being done and there’s been special evidence from the research, I think we have to be very careful where we start throwing huge amounts of money in terms of technology rollout. It’s the same for all technology actually. This is why early stage R&D is important for all technologies. (Frank)Thus, we should explore, but not ‘throw money at it’, at least not until a technology has reached the demonstration stage. This argumentation is not only about maximizing the return on investment, it also reflects the scarcity of public research funding. Many interviewees advocated for public involvement in energy technology innovation, as they considered the market to be an insufficient driver. Transcending the status quo, some argued, requires fresh imaginaries for the future of energy—a ‘moonshot vision for the future of energy’ in their words—because the market strongly governs what can be done and how it’s done. But with CE and energy research depending on the same financing, there is a risk of competition, which the interviewees were keen to avoid. As Chloé argued in the earlier quote, ‘doing something doesn’t mean that we have to drive something else down’. The Royal Society anticipated this sentiment when it called for some, but not too much funding for CE exploration (Stilgoe 2015: 121). The second boundary for permissible CE research draws on the separation between research and application as two distinct realms of accountability, an idea many scientists embrace (cf. Jones 2009). At a certain time comes the ethical question: do you want to manipulate human genes to make new human races? Do you want to manipulate animal genes to make new races? And that is an ethical question, and is not a technological question anymore. And I think geoengineering will fall in to that category. So research for understanding, certainly, it may help us find practice and good application… But we should not forget the ethical question that will arise from there. And we should be ready to face it, and … the answer will not come from the scientific community. The answer will need to come from the larger community, from philosophers, from ethics and from the public. (David)Interviewees refused the notion that supporting CE research risks enabling CE deployment, akin to a slippery slope (cf. Hulme 2012). David conceded that novel technologies are always prone to abuse, but felt at the same time that vigilance and wisdom can prevent abuse. Jenny declared that there are instruments to keep track of the research process, such as a stage gate review (the SPICE project used this instrument, cf. Macnaghten and Owen 2011). Moreover, the inability to control the outcomes of research processes stands in the way of a slippery slope, since many projects turn out to be failures, which in itself may be a source of new knowledge. 4. Discussion The purpose of this article has been to contribute to opening up deliberations of CE governance by analyzing the views of scientists who advise the European Commission on setting priorities for funding dedicated to sustainability-related research challenges. What can we learn from these views and the discursive pattern they manifest, and what contribution do they make to the CE debate? To help answer this question it is worth remembering that this was neither a study meant to be representative of how European scientists working on sustainability issues view CE in general, nor does it serve as predictor of the contents of a hypothetical future advisory opinion on CE by any of the involved committees—the sample size is too low for the former and interviews are too limiting a methodology for capturing deliberative dynamics that would be essential for the latter. However, the study is informative about the kinds of discourses and styles of reasoning that permeate the European research funding arena that constitutes the social setting in which these advisory committees operate. The analysis revealed five broad themes that underpinned how the respondents viewed CE proposals. They portrayed CE as a treatment of symptoms rather than root causes; as a potentially uncontrollable process of messing with highly complex natural systems; as ambiguous in its effect on future climate policy trajectories; and as engendering North–South inequalities. They nonetheless voiced their conditional support for basic CE research. The interviewees provided a rich array of examples to illustrate their views, often drawn from their field of expertise. They carefully contextualized their statements, noted the limitations of their expertise where appropriate, and resisted generalizing. Stock arguments that are part of CE assessment discourses only surfaced in connection with the security implications of SAI and were introduced by the interviewees who had the most detailed understanding of CE. The interviewees’ skepticism toward CE as a physical intervention into the complexity of the Earth system and their preference for CE proposals that could be deployed in a contained environment largely match the recommendations of scientific assessments (National Research Council 2015a,b; cf. The Royal Society 2009), as well as views expressed by lay people in focus groups studies (e.g. Wibeck et al. 2015). In addition to these already well documented views on CE as it relates to the Earth as a physical system, taking a closer look at how the interviewees talked about CE as it relates to societal transformation offers new perspectives from which to interrogate CE as an object of environmental and technology governance. Three such perspectives—social complexity, containment, and poverty—formed like undercurrents to the expressed views. They offer important considerations for future debates on CE proposals, and potentially also other areas of climate action. First, the interviewees asserted that social factors are crucial for future technological innovation trajectories. At the same time comparing their individual views suggests that social futures are the most open to interpretation. The interviewees’ accounts of political futures veered between the assertion of complexity and linearity. Climate policy was portrayed as complex domain where many policy issues converged, each of them with their own drivers. Technological innovation, too, was seen as a process with unpredictable outcomes. Yet for every nuanced expression of the complexity and unpredictability of social processes there was an affirmation of linearity and determinism. The claim that the public will eventually demand CE measures when the consequences of environmental disaster become unbearable is an example of simplification of society’s complexity because it ignores the crucial roles of institutions and policies in mediating between environmental conditions and societal consequences (cf. Felli 2016). Another example is the talk of ‘moonshots’ for future energy systems. This analogy implies that we can approach the energy transition in the fashion of the Manhattan or Apollo programs. These programs had narrowly defined technological goals and epitomize the linear model of innovation, but are rather at odds with the societal complexities inherent in sustainability transitions (cf. Mowery et al. 2010). It is important to point out this ambivalence between the laudable attention to complexity and occasional slips into sociological simplicity because this happens all too frequently in technological scenarios that treat a particular social configuration as the constant and technological progress as the variable (e.g. Morton 2015). But to meet the challenge head on, our speculations about climate futures need to treat both society and technology as variables to counter techno-determinist notions of plausible futures. Techno-deterministic scenarios probably serve less to prepare ourselves for future action (i.e. the infamous climate emergency) than to inform the ethics of our actions in the present. Second, in several instances the interviewees implicitly drew on the logic of the experiment—that is, confining select parts of the world in a controllable space—as a device to reason not just about knowledge production, but also about research and environmental governance. For instance, CE proposals that were spatially contained were viewed more favorably than those which intervened in the earth system, such as SAI or OIF. The same logic was crucial in reconciling the apparent contradiction between a skeptical attitude toward CE and the benefits of basic CE research which most interviewees defended wholeheartedly—the effects of basic research can be contained and managed and ought to be subject to different regulatory norms than technological applications. Genetic engineering served as illustration for this argument: doing transgenic experiments on cells in vitro is within the bounds of the acceptable, modifying humans, however, is outside that realm and necessitates broad societal debate. Importantly, using principles of knowledge production as a template for research and technology governance is not exclusive to the interviewees of this study. Science studies scholars call this the logic of containment and trace it back to the 1975 Asilomar conference that formulated early governance principles for transgenic research (Schäfer and Low 2014: 4; Jasanoff 2005: 46; Parthasarathy 2015). The logic of containment also underwrites David Keith’s (2014) proposal for governing CE outdoor experiments. He suggests that whether or not the public has a say ought to depend on whether or not such tests produce a significant effect on the environment. But organizing the governance of emerging technologies around risk management inadvertently introduces a division of responsibilities: science is in charge of the controllable, society has to grapple with the uncontrollable. This division of responsibility is problematic because it presupposes that society inherits sociotechnical projects over whose original constitution it had little to say (Stilgoe 2015). These technologies might be safe and manageable, but this doesn’t automatically mean that they are normatively desirable or just in their effects on equality. These are questions we actively need to investigate, as for instance in the case of proposals for bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Third, poverty, especially in the global South, and its implications for CE requires much more attention in the future. Emerging science and technologies often come accompanied by promises of benefits for the poor. If indeed they improve the latter’s livelihoods is but an emerging research agenda and so far the verdict is not very promising (Lemos and Dilling 2007; Cozzens and Thakur 2014; Cozzens and Wetmore 2011; Papaioannou 2011). Technology assessments of CE yet have to systematically consider the distributional consequences of the different proposals at stake, which may not coincide with the logic of containment. Moreover, there is a dire need to diversify viewpoints beyond Western academics. On the other hand, the distributive justice theme brings together contrasting concerns about technology control, with some seeing a need to limit access to technologies like SAI, while others fear that the poor won’t be able to share in the benefits of CE. This contrast is not unique to CE, as René von Schomberg (2013: 53) shows: Right up to modern times technical inventions were still considered with a view on “who is in control” and “who can make use of it.” Negative consequences of the technology were notably associated with who could use/misuse the technology, rather than with the properties of the technology itself. The politics of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons still echoes this tradition: only a few “responsible” governments are supposed to control the production of these weapons. All others should keep moral constraint and trust the “responsible” governors of this technology.Hence the challenge is whether CE technologies can be developed responsibly without recourse to the non-proliferation mindset of technology governance. In regards to SAI, several academics deem this an impossibility (Szerszynski et al. 2013; Hulme 2014). To conclude, this study did not produce a ranking of climate policy instruments but it pointed toward modes of thinking that might underpin such rankings. The relative distance of the interviewees from the CE debate was crucial for this, because it prevented the simple reiteration of stock arguments and instead allowed the analysis to focus on more basic patterns of reasoning in technological innovation for environmental policy. And in that lies its added value. Footnotes 1 <http://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/convention/application/pdf/english_paris_agreement.pdf> accessed 9 Sep 2017. 2 Currently there is no clear European research funding perspective on CE. Two assessment studies received funding under FP7 (Schäfer et al. 2015; Schmidt et al. 2012), but they are unconnected to the advisory committees investigated here. Several scholars also think that the EU would most likely play an active part in a hypothetical multilateralism to guide CE development and implementation (Fleurke 2016; Virgoe 2009; Zürn & Schäfer 2013). 3 <http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/experts/index.html> accessed 9 Sep 2017. 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