This discussion was co-authored by J. Eric Bickel, Assistant Professor, The University of Texas at Austin.
Measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have dominated public discourse about responses to man-made climate change. However, major institutional and political hurdles dim the prospects for controlling emissions.
Solar Radiation Management (SRM) appears to promise at least some capacity to offset manmade warming. SRM would seek to manage physical processes that reflect sunlight back into space. For example, researchers have envisioned adding to the layer of aerosols already present in the lower stratosphere. All else remaining equal, global mean temperatures would fall even though GHG levels would not. By lessening the rise in temperature, SRM might avoid some of the risks of global warming.
No one is proposing to deploy SRM systems at this point. The technologic concepts have not yet been proven to be either effective or safe. And an eventual decision to deploy SRM would probably require a good deal of hard bargaining among the world’s major powers.
Nonetheless, SRM might greatly lower the damages that could be caused by warming as well as the costs of the GHG control measures that would otherwise be justified to avoid those damages. Compared to the scale of the possible benefits, the costs of an R&D effort are trivial. In sum, if climate change poses a serious potential threat, then, it is prudent for the United States to pay the very modest costs of an R&D program to learn more about SRM’s potential benefits and risks.
What is the potential for SRM as a tool to address climate change? Should SRM research be part of the U.S. policy approach to GHG emissions and climate change issues?
It would seem prudent to me to have some modest SRM-related research in the portfolio, though I think more of such work should focus on possible impacts of cloud whitening,… Read more »
I acknowledge Lee’s conclusion that geoengineering might have to be considered given our feckless responses to climate change to date. However, one major challenge with some SRM approaches, especially sulfur… Read more »
CO2 Removal, CDR, is less risky and essentially a form of Reverse-Geo-Engineering, lower in cost, treating the cause not the symptoms. A Brief History of Agricultural Time Our farming for… Read more »
We thank Rodney, Wil, and Erich for their comments. Rodney and Wil are clearly right that, as we have noted, SRM entails risks that need thorough study before large scale… Read more »
I think one type of SRM that we probably would all agree to is to reduce black carbon (aka soot) emissions.
First, I would like to congratulate Lee Lane and Eric Bickel for their very comprehensive paper. They have surely advanced the conversation about SRM. I think the exchange on this… Read more »
Andy, Thank you very much for your comment. You have, we think, excellently summarized our reasoning. Let us, though, take a moment to discuss the energy technology issues that you… Read more »
Given new findings about Carbonaceous aerosols (bellow), and concerning soil carbon in general, concerning the cooling effects of the hydrological cycle, as 1 gram of C added to the soil… Read more »
When I did a search on “geoengineering” on the ourenergypolicy website, it showed 5 resources, no discussions — but in google, the same term led to this discussion as one… Read more »
[…] common term, and I find it most descriptive, of what is also called Geoengineering of the Weather, Solar Radiation Management, Carbon Dioxide Mitigation or one of many other fancy… Read more »
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[…] However, that is absolutely not true. Cloud seeding is defined as the application of scientific technology which is implemented to enhance a cloud’s ability to produce precipitation. As a… Read more »