Group to investigate research governance of controversial ‘Solar Radiation Modification’ technology

Over the next three years, a group of European researchers including The University of Manchester’s Dr Robert Bellamy will examine the governance principles and guidelines for responsible Solar Radiation Modification research. This contentious set of technologies may help tackle the climate crisis, but comes with additional risks.

SRM technologies aim to limit global warming by reducing the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface – reflecting sunlight or increasing how much heat escapes back into space. One example of SRM is Stratospheric Aerosol Injection which involves releasing reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to increase the reflection of sunlight back into space.

Views on SRM research are diverse, and conversations can be contentious. Some are concerned that research and development of SRM would distract from vital efforts to reduce emissions. Others view SRM as a potential opportunity to limit heating, avoid dangerous ecological tipping points, and protect humanity from the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Many remain undecided, but see a need to study risks, uncertainties and potential benefits.

Co-CREATE is a European Union-funded project which will examine principles and guidelines for a possible governance framework for responsible SRM research. The project will engage with diverse stakeholders and rightsholders, including marginalised and affected communities such as indigenous peoples in the Arctic and communities in the Global South. This collaborative approach will anchor project results in a diversity of voices, cultural contexts, and value-systems, reflecting the grappling of society with this complex and contentious issue.

Matthias Honegger, Senior Research Associate at Perspectives Climate Research, said: “No matter your preference on the long-term role – if any – of SRM in managing threats of climate change to human lives and nature, ignoring the topic will not resolve anything. Cautious and deliberate guidance and collaboration on SRM research and its governance are key.”

Julie Vinders, Senior Research Analyst at Trilateral Research, added: “The Co-CREATE project takes a neutral stance on Solar Radiation Management (SRM) and rather focuses on defining the conditions for responsible research. This research is crucial to facilitate informed discussions about SRM and prevent hasty or unilateral deployment of a technology that is not fully understood.”

Dr Peter Irvine, Lecturer at University College London, summarised the project: “Solar Radiation Modification covers a range of different interventions, each with their own potentials, limits, and risks. The Co-Create project will bring together a scientific and technical understanding of these details, with an interdisciplinary assessment of the issues, and stakeholder perspectives to develop robust principles and guidelines for SRM research governance.”

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