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Proactive and reactive geoengineering: Engineering the climate and the lithosphere
WIREs Climate Change  (IF7.385),  Pub Date : 2021-07-26, DOI: 10.1002/wcc.732
Jeroen Oomen, Martin Meiske

In recent years, the idea of geoengineering, understood as large-scale interventions in the planet's climate to counteract anthropogenic climate change, has steadily increased its visibility. Presented explicitly as an approach to climate change, geoengineering is positioned as a response, a reactive fix. Geoengineering, however, has a longer and broader history than the current climate crisis. It has long been an umbrella term for large-scale projects in which various Earth sciences meet dreams about human ecosphere interventions, especially regarding lithosphere and climate and weather modifications. In this paper, we review the history of geoengineering, focusing specifically on climate geoengineering and lithosphere geoengineering. We draw attention to the difference between “proactive” (“high-modernist”), aimed at mastery over nature, and “reactive” forms of geoengineering, hoping to address anthropogenic environmental degradation technologically. Additionally, we trace historical (dis)continuities between the older, proactive, form of geoengineering and their recent reframing as a technological fix—specifically around the question to what extent nature's complex systems can be known and controlled. Finally, we argue for the need to further research the intersections and shared histories between various forms of geoengineering.