PhD student Judith Kreuter graduates Summa Cum Laude from the Technical University of Darmstadt and provides valuable insights into the challenges of climate governance. 

While in recent years, Professor Johan Schot has initiated numerous large scale interdisciplinary projects, involving vast numbers of senior researchers from across the world, he considers mentoring PhD students as equally crucial – and enjoyable. Throughout his career, Schot has guided a total of 20 PhD students, many of whom he remains to cooperate with closely. One of them being Judith Kreuter who concluded her remarkable research efforts under the joint supervision of Professors Markus Lederer (Technical University of Darmstadt) and Johan Schot (Utrecht University Centre for Global Challenges) with an equally impressive defence, resulting in her graduating Summa Cum Laude on Friday, 31 January. The following puts Judith in the well-deserved spotlight and provides a summary of her research:

In his thesis review, Johan Schot states, “in her dissertation, Judith Kreuter asked a pertinent and timely question, namely how climate engineering (CE) is framed in academic discussions and may influence political decision-making. The assumption is that such academic framing may legitimise or delegitimise CE in (international) political decision making. The main rationale for this question is the climate crisis which needs a response from governments and international organisations. CE could be one of the responses, and in fact, development and use of some forms of CE (mostly Carbon Dioxide Removal) is implied in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios. However, CE has only been discussed by academics, it is not yet developed and tested. This would need political decision-making which is lacking at the moment, but may be necessary soon. Kreuter provided a clear answer to her research question by providing various frames (labelled as security, complexity, economy and appropriateness), and showing convincingly that a diversity of different frames exist, legitimising as well as delegitimising ones. She argued that this diversity should be preserved when a high-level decision-making process is initiated. This would ensure a continuing politicisation and political deliberation.”

According to Professor Johan Schot, “Judith Kreuter proved to be a very competent theoretically well-informed researcher. The thesis is not only relevant for current political debates, it also makes a substantial contribution to social constructivist international relations (IR) theory by applying the STS concept and frame theory. In particular, it offers a possible analysis of the politicisation process.”

Professors Markus Lederer refers to Judith’s dissertation as tackling one of the most controversial issues of global climate politics in discussing whether it is large-scale technical interventions that we should make use of to counteract man-made climate change. “In other words, should we become the ultimate master of planet Earth embracing climate engineering (CE)?”, Professor Lederer asks in his dissertation report and continues, “global greenhouse gases are still increasing and many parts of society are becoming impatient with politics as usual raising their voices through demonstrations or first signs of civil disobedience. It is thus fair to speculate that political players of different sorts will turn to the notion of CE rather sooner than later. Policy-makers will, however, not find a coherent and clear cut answer when turning to academia but rather a plethora of different voices. This is Ms. Kreuter’s starting point and her dissertation sheds light on how ‘the meaning of CE approaches (is) constructed in the academic discussion through frames which legitimise or delegitimise their use to address anthropogenic climate change?’”

Summarising his collaboration with Judith, Professor Lederer states, “Judith has been an outstanding PhD student working on a very timely issue, writing a superb dissertation and defending it in the best manner possible. Her dissertation will certainly influence the discussion on climate engineering and can serve as a valuable example for how good social science research can contribute to important interdisciplinary debates.“

“My thesis indicates that the framing of CE in the academic discussion is not uniform, but composed of a diversity of frames,” says Judith Kreuter. “Accordingly, I understand this discussion as an instance of politicization: It contributes to opening the issue up for deliberation and human decision-making.”

About Judith Kreuter:

Judith Kreuter is Research and Teaching Fellow at the Political Science Institute at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany. After concluding her B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Heidelberg and her M.A. in International Studies/ Peace and Conflict Research at the Universities of Frankfurt/ Main and Darmstadt, she became an associated PhD student at the German Research Foundation Priority Program “Climate Engineering”.  Judith’s research focuses on technology governance, with specific stress on geoengineering governance, as well as on the role of experts for governance and transition. Aside from geoengineering, she is interested in the cases of nuclear technology, nanotechnology and digitalization, among others.

She teaches academic courses on BA and MA level on climate, environmental and technology governance at the Technical University of Darmstadt. Previously, Judith worked at the Political Science Institute at the University of Münster. Her research has led her to France, the USA, the UK and Canada.


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