Comment on “Solar Geoengineering: The Case for an International Non-Use Agreement” by Biermann et al.

The above Perspective article, for which I was the handling editor, was published on-line by WIREs Climate Change on 17 January 2022 following peer review.  Wiley’s, the journal’s publisher, have today — 5th April 2023 — published an ‘Article Note’ to accompany this Perspective, referring to a formal complaint the publisher received about my handling of the manuscript. 

I accept the judgement of the independent panel set-up by Wiley’s to deal with this complaint, but I also wish to add three further points …

a)  The first point concerns the specific subject matter of the Biermann et al. Perspective.  The issue at stake – whether or not solar geoengineering is, or should be, a viable technological intervention for managing climate change — is of such importance for the world that a wide range of informed opinion needs to be aired and discussed.  Following my 2014 book, ‘Can Science Fix Climate Change: The Case Against Solar Geoengineering’, my own views on this question are well known.  This being the case, I had sympathy with Biermann’s proposal for a non-use agreement, just as my position also led me to oppose the views expressed in another WIREs Perspective, ‘Is Solar Geoengineering Ungovernable?’, written by Jesse Reynolds, and which I also handled as editor and which the journal published in November 2020.

b)  Which leads me to my second point.  Climate change is a profoundly political and ethical concern about which many academics and scientists, myself included, have strong views.  During my 14 years as Editor-in-Chief (EIC) I have therefore handled, and published, quite a few Opinion/Perspectives articles in WIREs Climate Change with which I disagree.  And I also have rejected some with which I agree.  As EIC for the journal, I handled numerous controversial viewpoints impartially, as I believe I did with the Biermann et al. manuscript, with the Reynolds manuscript, and with many others.

c)  My retirement from the EIC role at WIREs Climate Change is entirely unrelated to this case.  In spring 2022, my position as the new head of the department of geography was confirmed by the University of Cambridge, to take effect from 1 October 2022.  I realised I could not adequately fulfil both roles simultaneously and so, in June 2022, I gave Wiley’s my six months’ notice of retirement.  My role as EIC of the journal therefore ended on 31 December 2022.     

Mike Hulme, 5 April 2023

(Written in my capacity as the recently retired founding editor-in-chief of WIREs Climate Change and as an independent academic).