Solar Radiation Management

July 4, 2023

Introduction: The United States is considering a controversial tool called Solar Radiation Management (SRM) to address global warming. In a recent White House report, various activities were proposed to implement SRM, including injecting aerosols and brightening marine clouds to reflect sunlight into space. While the concept of SRM has gained interest, scientists have raised concerns about the environmental, social, and geopolitical risks associated with its deployment. To ensure responsible research and decision-making, a research governance framework for solar geoengineering research is expected to be established.  

Understanding SRM and Research Governance  SRM involves reflecting a small fraction of sunlight back into space as a means to counteract global warming. The proposed research governance framework aims to provide guidance on transparency, engagement, and risk management for publicly funded solar geoengineering research. This framework will contribute to informed decision-making and responsible practices in this emerging field.  Biden Administration’s Stance and Scientific Dimensions  The Biden administration maintains its primary focus on reducing emissions, increasing resilience, advancing environmental justice, and achieving energy security. However, the administration recognizes the growing interest and investment in SRM research. Scientific dimensions of SRM involve ground-based, airborne, and space-based observations, improving global modeling, and enhancing understanding of the physical processes and outcomes associated with SRM. 

Socio-economic Factors and Potential Risks  Assessing the socio-economic benefits and risks of SRM relative to climate change is a crucial aspect of evaluating this tool. In addition, cultural, moral, and ethical considerations are essential but often overlooked in model-based evaluations. The report highlights several potential risks of SRM, such as changes in precipitation patterns, stratospheric temperatures, ozone amounts, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, productivity, terrestrial vegetation, coral reefs, biodiversity, crop production, and ecosystems.  Collaboration and Key Contributors  The development of the White House report involved close collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other key US federal agencies. This collaboration ensures that expertise from various sectors is incorporated into the research and decision-making processes.   

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