Ensuring a Safe Climate: A National Imperative for Research in Climate Intervention and Earth System Prediction (2019)
March 6, 2019, Washington, DC — A new report released by Washington, DC-based climate policy organization SilverLining highlights the importance and necessity for immediate research in technological interventions in climate as part of a portfolio to ensure safety for communities and stability for natural systems.
The report, Ensuring a Safe Climate: A National Imperative for Research in Climate Intervention and Earth System Prediction, highlights society’s exposure to near-term risk from climate change, describes possibilities for reducing warming by increasing the reflection of sunlight from the atmosphere (i.e., “solar radiation management” or “solar geoengineering”), and discusses the nature of research and governance required to assess these possibilities.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences recently announced the committee for a new study to define research and governance for sunlight reflection interventions, and proposals for assessment were recently raised in the United Nations. SilverLining’s report is designed to help policymakers and others review concepts and considerations in advance of more comprehensive assessments.
The report focuses on the United States where research in climate intervention has arisen as a topic in Congress, including in a February 28, 2019 hearing in which Congressman Jerry McNerney raised the issue as being an area for political cooperation stating, “There are engineering solutions that need to be addressed, but we need to have the political will to put those solutions into effect. Please work with us to find solutions that are sufficient to the threat.”
To that end, the report’s scope also includes international developments as well as recommendations for global engagement. “We need additional options to address the risks of severe climate change in the next 10 to 30 years,” states SilverLining’s Executive Director, Kelly Wanser. “It’s critical that we generate more information on climate and alternatives to ensure safety. SilverLining aims to empower all members of society with better information, and this report is a tool for enabling many different stakeholders to engage in the discussion.”
Among the report’s key findings are the following:
Warming climate poses grave risks to people and ecosystems within the next 10 to 30 years, faster than the transitions required for greenhouse gas reduction or removal may take effect.
Atmospheric sunlight reflection techniques might prevent the worst impacts of climate change, but there is limited scientific information, no technology, and no formal funding for research. These approaches have risks and limitations and are not a replacement for reducing greenhouse gases, which must be restored to pre-industrial levels as rapidly as possible.
Investments are needed to assess interventions, including substantial improvements to climate predictions and a decade of modeling, observations, and small-scale experiments.
With the highest concentration of climate observation and research capabilities in the world, the United States is uniquely capable of supporting research and innovation in climate intervention, but open international collaboration will promote the strongest scientific and policy outcomes.
Governance is a critical concern. Existing laws and institutions have some jurisdiction over research and activity in the atmosphere, but climate interventions introduce new considerations. We currently lack sufficient information to develop governance models.
The report’s contributors include co-authors for the Fourth National Climate Assessment and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports as well as experts from the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Stanford University, the University of Washington, the United Kingdom Department for International Trade (former), and other institutions.
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