Home News The US government is developing a solar geoengineering research plan

The US government is developing a solar geoengineering research plan


The move, which has not been reported before, marks the first such federal coordination effort in the United States. It could lay the groundwork for more funding and research into the feasibility, benefits and risks of such interventions. The effort may also contribute to the perception of geoengineering as an appropriate and important area of ​​research as global temperatures rise.

Solar geoengineering includes a range of different approaches. Of greatest concern is the use of planes or balloons to disperse tiny particles in the stratosphere. In theory, these would reflect enough sunlight to mitigate warming, mimicking the effects of past massive volcanic eruptions. Some research groups have also explored whether releasing certain particles could disrupt cirrus clouds, which trap heat on Earth, or make low-lying ocean clouds more reflective.

The 2022 federal appropriations bill signed by President Biden in March directed his Office of Science and Technology Policy to work with NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create an interagency team to coordinate the development of such climate interventions. Research. and the Department of Energy.

The measure requires the group to create a research framework to “provide guidance on transparency, engagement, and risk management for public funding of solar geoengineering research.” Specifically, it directs NOAA to support the Office of Science and Technology Policy in developing a A five-year plan that includes identifying research goals in the field, assessing the potential harms of such climate interventions, and assessing the federal investment needed to do this work.

Geoengineering has long been a taboo topic for scientists, and some believe it should remain a taboo subject. There are questions about potential environmental side effects and concerns that different parts of the world will be affected unevenly. It is unclear how the world will respond to tough questions about global governance, including who should decide whether to deploy such a powerful tool and what global average temperature we should target. Some argue that geoengineering is too dangerous to attempt or even investigate, arguing that merely talking about the possibilities may make the need to address the root causes of climate change less urgent.

But as the threat of climate change increases and major countries fail to make rapid progress on emissions, a growing number of researchers, universities and countries are seriously exploring the potential impacts of these approaches. In turn, a handful of prominent scientific groups have called for stricter standards to guide the work, or more money to do it, or both. That includes the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which last year proposed the establishment of a US solar geoengineering research program with an initial investment of $100 million to $200 million over five years.

While stressing that emissions reductions must remain the highest priority, proponents of geoengineering research say we should explore these possibilities as they could meaningfully reduce the dangers of climate change. As heatwaves, droughts, famines, wildfires and other extreme events become more common or severe, these climate interventions may be one of the few available means to quickly alleviate widespread human suffering or ecological disaster, they noted.

The development of standards

In a statement, the Office of Science and Technology Policy confirmed that it had formed an interagency task force as required by the federal funding bill. It includes representatives from 10 research and mission agencies, including NOAA, NASA and the Department of Energy.

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