The 2022 federal appropriations act, signed into law in March, directed the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a cross-agency group to coordinate research on climate interventions, in partnership with NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Energy.
The group is tasked with creating a research framework to “provide guidance on transparency, engagement, and risk management for publicly funded work on solar geoengineering research.” The group is supposed to develop a five-year plan that will define research goals for the field, assess the potential hazards of climate interventions, and evaluate the level of federal funding required to carry out the work.
This marks the first federally coordinated effort of this kind and is especially significant because it contributes to the perception that geoengineering is an appropriate and important area of research as the climate continues to warm.
It is an understatement to say that such research is controversial. Geoengineering has often been a taboo topic among scientists. There are significant questions about potential environmental side effects and concerns that the impact of any such efforts would be felt unevenly in different parts of the world. There are challenging questions about global governance , including who should be able to make decisions about any potential deployment of climate interventions and what the goals of such interventions should be.
These are momentous issues to grapple with, but as the threat of climate change grows and nations continue to fail to make rapid progress on emissions, researchers, universities, and nations are increasingly motivated to seriously explore the potential effects of geoengineering approaches. We can’t hide from the fact that these issues are going to be explored.
Photo, posted June 28, 2013, courtesy of Fernando Aramburu via Flickr.