* ‘Solar geoengineering’ research runs into barriers * Indigenous opposition sparks 2022 strategy rethink
* New commission to look at risks from climate target overshoot By Alister Doyle
OSLO, Jan 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation – In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson’s science advisors urged research to reflect sunlight to keep the Earth cooler amid concerns about the alarming rise in greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels. Six decades later, solar geoengineering research is still in its infancy.
It is not a priority for more than 1% of climate science budgets. This is because it is feared that any tampering on the global thermostat could have unexpected consequences and distract from the urgent need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As global warming creeps towards 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F), governments face ever more difficult choices. This threshold was established in the 2015 Paris Agreement by around 200 countries to prevent ever more devastating floods, droughts, and melting ice.
These impacts are already increasing with temperatures hovering at 1.1C higher than pre-industrial levels. Harvard University had to cancel an outdoor, high-profile test of solar geoengineering technology last year due to opposition from indigenous communities.
The planned balloon flight above Sweden was intended to test the possibility of tiny reflective particles reaching 20 km up in the atmosphere. Major eruptions like the one at Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, in 1991 can cut global temperatures by more that a year. An ashen mask circulates in stratosphere.
After this setback, supporters of research into the benefits and risks of solar geoengineering turned to diplomacy to move their work forward. It is clear that Harvard will not be supporting indigenous peoples in the public fight for solar geoengineering. David Keith, a Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Professor of Applied Physics, stated that this is a fact. He was involved in the SCoPEx balloon project.
Harvard was looking at other launch sites, but Keith stated that we could also kill the project. We don’t really know. INDIGENOUS OPOSITION
Vice president of the Saami Council for reindeer herders, sa LarssonBlind, wrote an open letter to Harvard University in June urging the end of SCoPEx. The group claimed that the project violated the principles of indigenous peoples living in harmony with nature. We have not heard back from her, she stated.
Janos Pasztor is the executive director of Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative. He stated that the focus of solar geoengineering research was shifting to gaining broader support. He stated that he was skeptical that there would be any outdoor experiments in this year’s upper atmosphere.
He said that there is a lot of diplomatic work going on behind the scenes. You don’t see much of it on Twitter. The push aims to have solar geoengineering addressed by the U.N. General Assembly in September 2023, the top U.N. policymaking body.
Pasztor stated the geoengineering risks – such a potential skewing or monsoon rainfalls and global weather patterns – must be considered against fast-worsening effects of climate change. He asked, “Are the risks of a 2C world (warmer) worse than the geoengineering risks?”
This is a question that will likely rise on the international diplomatic agenda. FACING UP to OVERSHOOT
The Paris Peace Forum, an independent group, will appoint in the coming weeks a commission made up of former leaders from government to examine options for global temperatures that exceed the Paris Agreements goals. Pascal Lamy, a former head at the World Trade Organization will chair the “Global Commission on Governing Climate Risks From Climate Overshoot”. It will consist of 12-15 members and report back to the World Trade Organization late next year.
Adrien Abecassis is the coordinator of the Paris Peace Forum’s work. He said that the commission would look at both solar geoengineering, and methods to extract carbon from the atmosphere, as well as other options such climate finance to assist developing nations adapt to climate changes. Switzerland is also contemplating submitting a U.N. resolution. Environment Assembly is expected to meet in April and seek U.N.-level attention on climate altering technologies.
Switzerland believes that an authoritative report from the U.N. system will be key to enabling an informed debate about CATM governance. Felix Wertli of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment’s global affairs section stated in an email that Switzerland supports the U.N. system’s view. Ten other countries supported Switzerland in withdrawing a similar resolution from the U.N. After failing to get enough support, the Environment Assembly in 2019 was created.
MORATORIUM PUSH Some prominent scientists are against geoengineering and say that it is unnecessary to consider such technologies as a means to combat runaway climate changes.
Frank Biermann from Utrecht University said last year that normalizing research in solar geoengineering is dangerous. This was after 17 scientists had written in Nature, arguing for more research. He suggested that a global moratorium was needed.
Biermann joined more than 60 climate scientists, governance experts and others Monday to call for an “international agreement on solar geoengineering” that would stop the development and deployment of this technology. They said that decarbonising the world’s economies should be the top priority. They also argued that solar geoengineering was neither ethical nor legally governed.
Head of international environmental policy at Germany’s Heinrich Bll Foundation Lili Fuhr said that any next stage in geoengineering research would basically lead us down a slippery slope to deployment. We are aware enough of its dangers to know that we cannot use it. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will also provide a scientific update on geoengineering research in a report due out in April about ways to combat climate changes.
DEVELOPING THE WORLD VIEWS Researchers in developing countries are also focusing their attention on geoengineering options.
Decimals funds fund projects include how “solar radiation Management” (SRM), also known as solar geoengineering, could affect the Middle East’s dust storms and malaria rates. Ins Camilloni of University of Buenos Aires leads a team that is investigating how SRM might impact rainfall in the La Plata basin in South America, which is home to 160 millions people.
The lack of information about the potential impacts at the regional scale is a major concern. She said that more research is needed in this area. Andy Parker, who leads the Degrees Initiative and helped create Decimals, said that SRM research in developing countries is feasible and desirable.
The Degrees Initiative, a UK-based non-profit group, was created in partnership between the UK Royal Society, Italy’s World Academy of Sciences and U.S. Environmental Defense Fund. It claims it wants to assist developing countries in evaluating controversial technology like SRM.
Parker stated that back in the 1960s U.S. President Johnson’s science advisers had no idea that global warming would become this severe in the 21st centuries. He predicted that 1.5C would be the threshold at which people would have to confront the big question: What options do we have if emissions reductions fail?
(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff. It is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.