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Experimental and Theoretical Psychology

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Marsilius-Project Geo-Engineering

Marsilius-Project Geo-Engineering

“Climate engineering“ is the emerging concept of a deliberate alteration of the global climatic system by technological means. Over the last few years, climate engineering has received increasing attention among scientists, policy-makers, and the public as an additional strategy for combating climate change.

A team of researchers at the University of Heidelberg with different disciplinary backgrounds ranging from the humanities and social sciences to the natural sciences has come together to undertake this interdisciplinary venture, united by a common research interest in climate engineering. What is envisaged is an assessment of the currently available climate engineering options and their limitations and risks. This comprehensive assessment will be carried out against the background of a globalized economy and politically fragmented societies at the start of the 21st century. The researchers hail from different disciplines - physics, economics, law, philosophy, geography, political sciences, and psychology - and will both draw on each others' expertise to advance their own thinking and pull these advances together into unified transdisciplinary answers.

Psychological perspectives

Central for the psychological perspective will be the two questions: (1) what are the risks and the chances of climate engineering in the eyes of naive subjects; (2) what constitutes a fair solution between the different interests from different countries and different sectors in the pursuit of climate engineering. The first question addresses the broad issue of risk perception, especially with respect to global risks which are assessed differently to local or individual risks. It is intended to evaluate the risks of climate engineering in the context of other global risks within society. The second question addresses primarily the factor of polytely in research on complex problem solving, namely, how to come to a problem solution, which seems fair to all participants. It is intended to compare fairness judgements from novices versus experts from the area. Information will be presented by means of scenario techniques, that is, presenting a problem together with different solution proposals.

Project Assistant

Dipl.-Psych. "Sascha Wüstenberg" is doing his doctoral project within this initiative.

Project Partner

  • Prof. Dr. Werner Aeschbach-Hertig, Umweltphysik: Consequences of global climate engineering, in particular impacts on the water cycle, based on physical climate models.
  • Prof. Dr. Joachim Funke, Psychologie: Psychological foundations of individual and social responses vis-a-vis climate engineering.
  • Prof. Dr. Hans Gebhardt, Geographie: Spatial consequences of climate engineering; relationship between international discourses of regulation and regional climate engineering impacts.
  • PD Dr. Martin Gessmann, Philosophie: Analysis of medial representation of geoengineering in movies.
  • Prof. Timo Goeschl, PhD, Umweltökonomie: Cost-benefit analysis of geoengineering; economics of international agreements on geoengineering.
  • Prof. Dr. Sebastian Harnisch, Politikwissenschaft: Analysis of the international politics of global governance of geoengineering.
  • Prof. Dr. Ulrich Platt, Umweltphysik, and Prof. Dr. Thomas Leisner, Umweltphysik: Assessment of climate engineering technologies with regard to feasibility, side effects, and consequences.
  • Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Wolfrum, Max-Planck-Institut für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht: Perspectives of international law and international institutions required for global geoengineering and managing its consequences.

    Funding and resources

    A three year funding for this project, starting September 1, 2009, is given by the Marsilius Kolleg, the Heidelberg Center for Advanced Studies.


  • Cronin, M. A., Gonzalez, C., & Sterman, J. D. (2009). Why don’t well-educated adults understand accumulation? A challenge to researchers, educators, and citizens. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 108, 116-130.

  • Sterman, J. D., & Booth Sweeney, L. (2007). Understanding public complacency about climate change: adults’ mental models of climate change violate conservation of matter. Climatic Change, 80, 213-238.

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    Last modified on 03.10.2009 by JF.