Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

Lisa Dilling

Lisa Dilling

Research Interests

Use of scientific knowledge in decision making; climate change science policy; carbon management and governance; human dimensions of the carbon cycle; scales in decision making and scientific research.

Current Research

Governance of geoengineering research

My research focuses on what factors are associated with policy choices to mitigate weather- and climate-related risks and how information plays a role. I ask questions such as: How do communities perceive risk? How are choices and tradeoffs evaluated? How is information produced, evaluated, and used? I study this area along three major fronts: 1) How do science policies shape the usability of research for decision making?; 2) How do current decision processes incorporate climate-related risk or opportunity?; and 3) What factors shape the adaptive capacity of organizations?I study decision making, the use of information and science policies related to climate change, adaptation, geoengineering, and carbon management. My current projects examine drought in urban water systems, water governance and climate change, municipal adaptation to hazards, decision making in public lands management, and knowledge for adaptation in Tanzania.

My current project investigates the governing of geoengineering research. Research on geoengineering (the deliberate management of Earth’s climate system) is being increasingly discussed within the science and policy communities. While justified as necessary in order to expand the range of options available to policy makers in the future, geoengineering research has already engendered public controversy. Proposed projects have been protested or cancelled, and calls for a governance framework abound.

In this study, we consider the reasons why geoengineering research might be subject to additional governance and suggest mechanisms that might be usefully applied in developing such a framework. We consider criteria for governance as raised by a review of the growing literature on geoengineering and other controversial scientific topics. We suggest three families of concern that any governance research framework must respond to: the direct physical risks of the research; the transparency and responsibility in decision making for the research; and the larger societal meanings of the research. We review what mechanisms might be available to respond to these three families of concern, and consider how these might apply to geoengineering research.


View Publications

Survey results from a recent paper analyzing barriers to climate change adaptation in the interior mountain West. Federal public lands and municipal respondents were asked, "What sources do you typically consult to obtain the data and information you need for your work?" The graph shows information sources consulted, by rank: Do not use in my work = 0, Rarely = 1, Occasionally = 2, Frequently = 3, and All the Time = 4. Figure credit: Archie et al., Journal of Environmental Management.