Governance of Research and Other Sociopolitical Considerations
GOVERNANCE CONSIDERATIONS FOR ALBEDO MODIFICATION RESEARCH
The focus of this chapter is on the issue of governing research, because research is the only albedo modification-related activity that the committee believes should be considered at this time. Such research encompasses a range of activities from the innocuous, such as modeling, to the more invasive, such as controlled small-scale test deployments for experimentation purposes. The degree and nature of governance should vary with the activity, and the associated risks. The committee begins by reviewing previous discussions on the governance of albedo modification research before briefly identifying some of the issues related to the governance of albedo modification deployment, and then discusses a path forward. The committee believes it is premature to engage in a larger discussion of governance of deployment given the large uncertainties about albedo modification.
It is important to give careful thought to the mechanisms for governing research on albedo modification, since they may later form part of the basis for a mechanism for governing sanctioned or unsanctioned deployment should a choice ever be made to proceed to that stage. Albedo modification will test international relationships in unprecedented ways. Although coordinated international efforts to deal with global-scale threats have been successful in the past, such as the Montreal Protocol, no similar international effort has been undertaken to address the sort of deliberate global alteration that would be involved in albedo modification.
Questions that will likely need to be addressed in any future international agreement governing albedo modification include the following:
- How is it decided when the benefit to albedo modification will outweigh the harm? What metric should be used?
- What obligation do the acting parties have to compensate others for damages, anticipated or otherwise, caused by albedo modification? Who decides causality and how is it determined?
- Who decides what is benefit versus harm, and on what time and space scales are such determinations made?
Pidgeon et al. (2013) argue that public surveys show that “international governance and regulatory structures should be under development now to help shape geoengineering research.” Parson and Ernst (2013) argue that research will “require international governance as the scale of interventions grows beyond a single nation’s territory—or as other nations assert claims to participate due to the international significance of the research, even if physical trans-boundary effects are small.” They go on to suggest that
… there will not be a clean boundary between an early period of “scientific” [climate engineering] governance and some later period of “operational” governance. Rather, future decisions about [climate engineering] interventions will continue to depend on uncertain scientific judgments synthesized from prior research—judgments about projected effectiveness and risks of proposed interventions, about attribution of consequences to interventions underway, and about appropriate monitoring and adaptation strategies—even as they also seek to advance operational risk-management objectives.
Hulme (2014) explores three possible models for governance: a multilateral process operated through the United Nations, a consortium of several nations, and deployment by a single nation. He argues that none of these will result in adequate risk governance: that research on albedo modification will inevitably lead to deployment and, hence, “if the deployment of the technology cannot conceivably be adequately governed, then the technology itself should not be researched.” The committee’s view is that ignoring the need to control albedo modification risk through research and governance does not ensure that albedo modification will never be deployed, and in fact it increases the likelihood that any deployment would be less successful and have more undesirable side effects.
A single nation, or even a very wealthy individual, could have the physical and economic capability to deploy albedo modification with the intention of unilateral action to address climate change in a geographic region. Establishing strong international norms regarding the conditions under which deployment of albedo modification might be warranted could help dissuade such unilateral and uncoordinated action. Establishing such norms will only occur with the deliberate initiation of an interna-
tional conversation on what is known and not known about the potential risks and benefits of albedo modification. Such conversations are best initiated through consideration of research results that allow for constructive conversations based on effectively circumscribed information. Research that is aimed at understanding the impacts of responsible deployment of albedo modification will also provide important insights into the effects of irresponsible deployment, better equipping nations to deal with such threats more effectively.
While the issues of potential linkage, precedent, and political and institutional lock-in between research and deployment are important, they need to be addressed through a broad civil society conversation as part of establishing a research governance strategy (Recommendation 6). These topics are beyond the scope of this report and the charge to the committee.
Previous Discussions of Governance of Albedo Modification Research
Several authors have discussed the governance arrangements that they believe are needed to manage research related to albedo modification. One of the first public calls for research on climate intervention came in the early 1990s. Writing in EOS, Keith and Dowlatabadi (1992) argued that research should focus on “answering questions with the greatest product of uncertainty and importance.” They summarized a set of issues related to risk, politics, and ethics that they believed should inform such priority setting and focused in particular on issues of sovereignty, equity, liability, and security, calling for greater attention to “non-technical issues and risks.” Schelling (1996) was one of the first to consider how existing international institutions might handle the governance of both albedo modification and carbon dioxide removal techniques.
Over the course of the next decade and a half, albedo modification generally grew to be more openly discussed, including at two international workshops run in Washington, DC, and Lisbon, Portugal, in the late 2000s. Building on views expressed by participants of those workshops, Victor et al. (2009) wrote the following:
The scientific academies in the leading industrialized and emerging countries—which often control the purse strings for major research grants—must orchestrate a serious and transparent international research effort funded by their governments. Although some work is already under way, a more comprehensive understanding of geoengineering options and of risk-assessment procedures would make countries less trigger-happy and more inclined to consider deploying geoengineering systems in concert rather than on their own. (The International Council for Science, which has a long and successful history of coordinating scientific assessments of technical topics,
could also lend a helping hand.) Eventually, a dedicated international entity overseen by the leading academies, provided with a large budget, and suffused with the norms of transparency and peer review will be necessary. In time, international institutions such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could be expected to synthesize the findings from the published research. …
Although the international scientific community should take the lead in developing a research agenda, social scientists, international lawyers, and foreign policy experts will also have to play a role. Eventually, there will have to be international laws to ensure that globally credible and legitimate rules govern the deployment of geoengineering systems. But effective legal norms cannot be imperiously declared. They must be carefully developed by informed consensus in order to avoid encouraging the rogue forms of geoengineering they are intended to prevent.
Early discussions on albedo modification research focused on the so-called “double moral hazard” issue—that on one hand research into these proposed techniques could lead to policy makers deciding to lose focus and/or urgency for reducing emissions, while on the other hand, not researching albedo modification techniques could allow for a situation where an albedo modification approach is deployed without a full understanding of its consequences (either a sanctioned or unsanctioned approach; see further discussion in the “Ethical and Sociopolitical Issues” section below). Concerns over the first part of this “moral hazard” have led to proposals that an international prohibition be implemented with respect to all research related to albedo modification (see description of the Convention on Biological Diversity later in this chapter). In response to this, Victor et al. (2009) argued the following:
Those who worry that such research will cause governments to abandon their efforts to control emissions, including much of the environmental community, are prone to seek a categorical prohibition against geoengineering. But a taboo would interfere with much-needed scientific research on an option that might be better for humanity and the world’s ecosystems than allowing unchecked climate change or reckless unilateral geoengineering. Formal prohibition is unlikely to stop determined rogues, but a smart and scientifically sanctioned research program could gather data essential to understanding the risks of geoengineering strategies and to establishing responsible criteria for their testing and deployment.
The Royal Society’s report on geoengineering (Shepherd et al., 2009) further elaborated this same theme, arguing the following:
An obvious drawback of a moratorium is that it inhibits research. … In the context of geoengineering, it would make it almost impossible to accumulate the informa-
tion necessary to make informed judgments about the feasibility or acceptability of the proposed technology. Furthermore, it is likely to deter only those countries, firms and individuals who would be most likely to develop the technology in a responsible fashion, while failing to discourage potentially dangerous experimentation by less responsible parties. To overcome this problem, some commentators have suggested forming an international consortium to explore the safest and most effective options, while also building a community of responsible geoengineering researchers, along the lines of other international scientific collaborations, such as the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Human Genome Project (Broecker and Kunzig, 2008; Victor et al., 2009).
The Royal Society report (Shepherd et al., 2009) also discussed some of the considerations that should go into the governance of albedo modification research. They argued that when assessing alternative strategies, discussions of governance should
… include the reversibility of society’s commitment to a technology, and the ease of remediation if problems arise. Indicators of a technology’s relative ‘inflexibility’ include: long lead times from idea to application; capital intensity; large scale of production units; major infrastructure requirements; closure or resistance to criticism; and hype about performance and benefits (RCEP, 2008). As a general guide, the more of these factors that are present, the more caution should be exercised in committing to the adoption of a particular technology.
A year after the publication of the Royal Society report, the Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies was held at the Asilomar Conference Center in California in March 2010. This conference brought together more than 100 leading researchers and thinkers to discuss a wide range of scientific and research governance issues. In their final report (ASOC, 2010) the conference organizing committee reported that conference deliberations resulted in five recommendations for the governance of research:
(1) climate engineering research should be aimed at promoting the collective benefit of humankind and the environment; (2) governments must clarify responsibilities for, and, when necessary, create new mechanisms for the governance and oversight of large-scale climate engineering research activities; (3) climate-engineering research should be conducted openly and cooperatively, preferably within a framework that has broad international support; (4) iterative, independent technical assessments of research progress will be required to inform the public and policymakers; and (5) public participation and consultation in research planning and oversight, assessments, and development of decision-making mechanisms and processes must be provided. The conferees concluded that expanding and continuing the discussion with an even
broader set of participants will be an essential step in moving forward to explore the potential benefits, impacts, and implications of climate engineering. (ASOC, 2010)
Four months before the Asilomar conference a group of academics in the United Kingdom submitted a set of principles to a House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee on “The Regulation of Geoengineering” (House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, 2010; Rayner et al., 2013). The five principles, which were subsequently discussed at the Asilomar conference, read as follows:
- Geoengineering to be regulated as a public good. While the involvement of the private sector in the delivery of a geoengineering technique should not be prohibited, and may indeed be encouraged to ensure that deployment of a suitable technique can be effected in a timely and efficient manner, regulation of such techniques should be undertaken in the public interest by the appropriate bodies at the state and/or international levels.
- Public participation in geoengineering decision making. Wherever possible, those conducting geoengineering research should be required to notify, consult, and ideally obtain the prior informed consent of those affected by the research activities. The identity of affected parties will be dependent on the specific technique which is being researched—for example, a technique which captures carbon dioxide from the air and geologically sequesters it within the territory of a single state will likely require consultation and agreement only at the national or local level, while a technique which involves changing the albedo of the planet by injecting aerosols into the stratosphere will likely require global agreement.
- Disclosure of geoengineering research and open publication of results. There should be complete disclosure of research plans and open publication of results in order to facilitate better understanding of the risks and to reassure the public as to the integrity of the process. It is essential that the results of all research, including negative results, be made publicly available.
- Independent assessment of impacts. An assessment of the impacts of geoengineering research should be conducted by a body independent of those undertaking the research; where techniques are likely to have transboundary impact, such assessment should be carried out through the appropriate regional and/or international bodies. Assessments should address both the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of research, including mitigating the risks of lock-in to particular technologies or vested interests.
- Governance before deployment. Any decisions with respect to deployment should only be taken with robust governance structures already in place, using existing rules and institutions wherever possible.
In parallel with the deliberations by the committee of the House of Commons, under the Chairmanship of Congressman Bart Gordon the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held three hearings on geoengineering (U.S. Congress, 2010). The final hearing included testimony via a video conference link with Mr. Phil Willis who chaired the Committee of the House of Commons.
In testimony presented to the third hearing (March 18, 2010) of the House Science Committee, Morgan introduced the concept of an “allowed zone,” arguing that, governed only by national environmental and other regulations, scientists should be able to conduct small-scale field studies in the stratosphere within some tightly constrained bounds defined in terms of variables such as very low impact on radiative forcing, short lifetime, and very limited impact on ozone depletion (U.S. Congress, 2010). Morgan and Ricke (2010) (also see Parson and Keith, 2013) subsequently elaborated these ideas in a report published by the International Risk Governance Council in which they argued that, while laboratory and computer modeling studies should come first,
because there are many important questions about these technologies that can only be answered by observing the real world, within a few years it will likely be necessary to also conduct modest low-level field testing in a way that is transparent and coordinated informally within the international scientific community.
After outlining a number of scientific questions that such studies might address, Morgan and Ricke (2010) argued that1
[s]o long as modest low-level field studies designed to answer these questions are done in an open and transparent manner, we believe they should not be subject to any formal international process of vetting and approval. Countries and firms routinely fly various aircraft in the stratosphere, or send rockets through the stratosphere into space. These activities release significant quantities of particles and gases. A requirement for formal prior approval of small field studies, just because they are directed at learning about SRM and its limitations, is probably unenforceable because judging intent is often impossible. Such a regulation would, at best, make conducting modest low-level SRM research extremely difficult and, at worst, impossible.
That said, clearly one of the first objectives of an SRM research programme should be to give more precise meaning to the phrase “modest low-level.” This definition is important both to begin to create clear norms within the international scientific
1 “SRM” in this text refers to “solar radiation management,” where the committee prefers to use the term “albedo modification” instead.
community, and also to provide technical input to the diplomatic and foreign policy community as it begins to think about how it might best regulate larger-scale experimental activities or proposals for actual implementation.
One possible approach would be to define, based on research, an “allowed zone.” Once a proposal for such a zone has been developed through research, it would need to be informally vetted within the international research community (for example, through a process such as the one the Royal Society is initiating, through the IAC [Inter Academy Council of the world’s science academies], through ICSU [International Council for Science], or through some similar group). After vetting, while experiments may still be subject to any number of regulatory requirements within the country funding or hosting them, scientists should be able to proceed with studies that fall inside this zone without formal international approval, subject only to the requirements that their studies are publicly announced and all results are made public. They should also be informally assessed and coordinated within the scientific community. Once an “allowed zone” has been defined, a norm should be created that the further an experiment ventures outside such a zone, the more extensive the international vetting should be before it is conducted. In the future, such a boundary of allowed activities might be formally incorporated in an international treaty or other agreement.
Seven months after the completion of the series of three hearings by the House Science Committee, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO, 2010) published a report recommending the following:
The appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President (EOP), such as the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in consultation with relevant federal agencies, should develop a clear, defined, and coordinated approach to geoengineering research in the context of a federal strategy to address climate change that (1) defines geoengineering for federal agencies; (2) leverages existing resources by having federal agencies collect information and coordinate federal research related to geoengineering in a transparent manner; and if the administration decides to establish a formal geoengineering research program, (3) sets clear research priorities to inform decision-making and future governance efforts.
As a follow-on activity to its major study on geoengineering, The Royal Society teamed with the Environmental Defense Fund and The World Academy of Sciences in a project called the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative (SRMGI). This effort established “an expert working group and large network of stakeholder partner organizations,” ran a conference at The Royal Society’s Kavli International Centre in the United Kingdom in March 2011, and subsequently organized sessions on governance in Pakistan, India, China and Senegal, South Africa, and Ethiopia (SRMGI, 2013b).
In preparation for the SRMGI conference Shepherd and Morgan (2011) prepared a background paper that outlined a series of thresholds and categories and then suggested a set of choices that must be made in deciding whether and how to govern albedo modification research:
CHOICE 1: Establish a formal international ban or “taboo” on all forms of SRM research, similar to that which has been developed for chemical and biological weapons.
CHOICE 2: In addition to any national regulations that may apply, subject all computer modeling and laboratory studies of SRM to some form of formal international regulatory oversight and/or approval.
CHOICE 3: In addition to any national regulations that may apply, even small-scale experimental studies with negligible impact that are conducted outside of the laboratory should be subjected to international regulatory oversight, review and approval.
CHOICE 4: In defining an “allowed zone” in which field studies can be conducted, subject only to professional norms of good scientific conduct and national (as opposed to international) regulations, physical and biological impacts should be considered, but more subjective issues of public risk perception should not considered in defining this zone.
CHOICE 5: Experimental field studies that push out beyond the boundaries of an “allowed zone” (however defined) should be subjected to international regulatory oversight, review and approval.2
In its report Solar Radiation Management: The Governance of Research (2013a) the SRMGI project reported a set of nine general conclusions:
- Nothing now known about SRM provides justification for reducing efforts to mitigate climate change through reduced GHG emissions, or efforts to adapt to its effects. The evidence to date indicates that it could be very risky to deploy SRM in the absence of strong mitigation or sustainable CDR methods.
- Research into SRM methods for responding to climate change presents some special potential risks. Governance arrangements for managing these risks are mostly lacking and will need to be developed if research continues.
2 Further information is available at http://www.srmgi.org/files/2011/09/SRMGI-background-paperThresholds.pdf.
- There are many uncertainties concerning the feasibility, advantages and disadvantages of SRM methods, and without research it will be very hard to assess these.
- Research may generate its own momentum and create a constituency in favour of large-scale research and even deployment. On the other hand, ignorance about SRM technology may not diminish the likelihood of its use, and in fact might increase it.
- A moratorium on all SRM-related research would be difficult if not impossible to enforce.
- Some medium and large-scale research may be risky, and is likely to need appropriate regulation.
- Considering deployment of SRM techniques would be inappropriate without, among other things, adequate resolution of uncertainties concerning the feasibility, advantages and disadvantages. Opinion varied on whether a moratorium on deployment of SRM methods would be appropriate at this stage.
- The development of effective governance arrangements for potentially risky research (including that on SRM) which are perceived as legitimate and equitable requires wide debate and deliberation. SRMGI has begun, and will continue to foster, such discussion.
- International conversations about the governance of SRM should be continued and progressively broadened to include representatives of more countries and more sectors of society. Appropriate international organizations should also be encouraged to consider the scientific, practical, and governance issues raised by the research of SRM methods.
The report of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC’s) Task Force on Climate Remediation Research published in October of 2011 argued that the United States should undertake a serious program of research on carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and albedo modification, under the coordination of the White House OSTP. It called for the White House to establish a new advisory commission that would be charged with helping to guide this research. The BPC task force—composed of 18 leading experts in the field of climate intervention science and governance3—argued that
The federal government should develop transparency protocols for all potentially risky forms of climate remediation research. Those protocols should be appropriate for the magnitude and extent of potential impacts for the specific experiment under con-
3 Note that several members of this task force are also members of the committee that authored this report.
sideration—that is, protocols should be based not only on the risks posed by related research, but also on the risks that would be posed by deployment.
It also argued that
Effective research programs must examine more than just the potential impacts, effectiveness, and risks of CDR and SRM technologies. They must also help develop appropriate governance structures for research into those technologies, domestically and internationally.
In a paper titled “Vested Interests and Geoenginering Research,” Long and Scott (2013) identify what they term “the four Fs”: factors that they argue should be considered in making choices about the design and conduct of research. These are
Fortune – the fact that there are powerful vested interests, such as those who want to sustain the fossil fuel industry, or develop and sell carbon credits.
Fear – both appropriate fear of causing serious harm to the Earth system and also various types of “inappropriate fear” such as reputational fears on the part of investigators.
Fame – the risk that investigators may become carried away by publicity and notoriety.
Fanaticism – the risks that “reasonable ideological position [could] drift into fanaticism when it hardens into a rigid devotion.”
Long and Scott (2013) argue that the best way to counteract the risks posed by their “four Fs” is to devise a risk governance system that ensures transparency, institutional designs that “foster standards of [good] practice,” an approach to research management that is more collaborative and mission driven, and adequate public deliberation. They conclude that “it is not too early to begin the conversation about the human weaknesses, vested interests, and frightening possibilities of mismanaging geoengineering” and argue that the approaches they have outlined can be used to mitigate these risks.
Morgan et al. (2013) have argued that in undertaking a program of research it will be essential to develop “a code of best SRM research practice” that has three components:
- Guidelines for making research results available to decision makers and the public (what we call “open access to SRM knowledge”);
- Delineation of categories of field experiments that are unlikely to have adverse impacts on health, safety, or the environment (i.e., experiments conducted within what Morgan and Ricke have previously termed an “allowed zone” of minimal forcing, minimal duration, and minimal impact on stratospheric ozone); and
- Agreement that any field research to be conducted outside the “allowed zone” will not be undertaken before a clear national and international governance framework has been developed.
After outlining how such a code of practice might be developed, they lay out a strategy under which the United States would take the lead in creating a formal set of norms. Since most albedo modification–related research will likely be funded by the government, they outline a strategy by which federal funding agencies could ensure that the attributes of best practice would be adopted in all the research they support. They argue, “Once developed and implemented, it should be possible to persuade others across the international research community to adopt similar norms. Organizations such as the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), and the world’s National Academies of Science, are well positioned to promote such adoption.”
Most recently, two workshops held in the spring of 2014 moved the discourse on research governance beyond more abstract discussion to focus on specific cases. At a workshop in March of 2014 organized at Harvard by David Keith, Riley Duran, and Douglas MacMartin (Keith et al., 2014), 28 experts spent 2 days, developing the first reasonably detailed descriptions of a list of eight field experiments that might be run as part of a first round of albedo modification–related experimental studies, and then conducted preliminary reviews of those ideas. The experiments considered are summarized in Table 4.1.
Approximately a month later, a similarly sized second workshop was convened by Jane Long and others (Long et al., 2015) in San Francisco to examine in detail the research governance needs of the eight proposed field projects that had been presented at the Harvard workshop.4 Although these proposed studies by no means included all of the possible albedo modification field experiments that one might see in an initial set of studies, participants argued that they did span a wide enough space to provide a basis for developing a reasonably detailed assessment of research governance needs.
4 The San Francisco workshop was co-sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making at Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of California, Berkeley.
TABLE 4.1 Summary of the Field Test Experiments Proposed and Critiques at the March 2014 Harvard Workshop that Then Formed the Basis for Discussion of Research Governance at the San Francisco Workshop a Month Later
|Exp#||Informal Title||Category Type(s)||Cost ($M)||Local Forcing, Area, Duration, and Equivalent Energy||Material and Mass||Synopsis|
|1||SCoPEx||Process study||10||ΔRF = 0.01-0.1 W/m2 A = 101 km2 T = 1 week N = 4 E = 2.4 × 1012 J||103 g of S and <105 g of H2O||Stratospheric propelled balloon to test chemistry response to H2SO4 and H2O and to test aerosol microphysical models|
|2||Cirrus cloud seeding||Process study||0.5||ΔRF = 1-10 W/m2 A = 102 km2 T = 1 week N = 4 E = 2.4 × 1015 J||3 × 10 g of BiI3||Ice nucleation seeding from aircraft in upper troposphere to test cirrus dispersal mechanisms|
|3||MCB Phase 1-2||Technology development, Process study||1||ΔRF = 0.1-5 W/m2 A = 1 × 102 km2 T = 2 weeks N = 4 E = 2.4 × 1015 J||Sea salt||Marine cloud brightening: (1) boundary layer injection of sea salt from coastal site to test sprayer technology; (2) coastal test of cloud brightening|
|Exp#||Informal Title||Category Type(s)||Cost ($M)||Local Forcing, Area, Duration, and Equivalent Energy||Material and Mass||Synopsis|
|4||MCB Phase 3||Process study, scaling test||2||ΔRF = 5-50 W/m2 A = 1 × 102 km2 T = 4 weeks N = 4 E = 4.8 × 1016 J||Sea salt||Ocean test of marine cloud brightening (sea salt injection into boundary layer from single ship; e.g., single enhanced ship track)|
|5||MSGX||Scaling test, technology development||100||ΔRF = 0.2 W/m2 A = 1 × 106 km2 T = 6 months N = 1 E = 1.3 × 1019 J||5 × 108 g of S||Sustained stratospheric injection of H2SO4 from aircraft, observe mesoscale effects from satellites and aircraft|
|6||Climate response test||Climate response test||>1,000||ΔRF = 0.5 W/m2 A = 5 × 108 km2 T= 10 years N = 1 E = 8 × 1022 J||1 × 1012 g of S per year||Test global climate response to large-scale modulated input (either stratospheric sulfate or marine cloud brightening)|
|Exp#||Informal Title||Category Type(s)||Cost ($M)||Local Forcing, Area, Duration, and Equivalent Energy||Material and Mass||Synopsis|
|7||MOCX||Scaling test, technology development||10||ΔRF = 50-100 W/m2 A = 4 × 104 km2 T = 4 weeks N = 4 E = 7.7 × 1019 J||Sea salt||Mesoscale Ocean Cloud Experiment. Large-scale test of marine cloud brightening in open ocean with multiple, coordinated ships|
|8||SPICE-2||Technology development||0.5||ΔRF = none A = 1 × 101 km2 T = 2 weeks E = none||103 g of H2O||Test 1-km-scale balloon injection approach|
|9||Volcanogenic particles||Process study||2||ΔRF = none A = TBD km2 T = TBD days E = TBD||Small amounts of H2S, SO2, SO42-, SiO2||Observe physical/chemical fate of candidate particles from (i) volcano and (ii) aircraft injection (S-bearing species and SiO2)|
NOTE: MCB, marine cloud brightening. The portfolio spans three primary categories of albedo modification: stratospheric aerosol injection, cirrus cloud seeding (strictly speaking this is long-wavelength not “albedo modification”), and marine cloud brightening, degree of local perturbation (change in local peak radiative forcing, ΔRF), area of the experiment domain (A), individual test duration (T), number of tests in an experiment (N), equivalent energy (E = ΔRF × A × T × N), the primary composition and mass of materials injected into the atmosphere, and the type of experiment. Experiment costs are very uncertain. In each case, experiment duration is limited to the active period of injection (in some but not all cases, continuous) and does not indicate months of preparatory efforts or data analysis. ΔRF represents the quasi-instantaneous change in radiative forcing over the domain indicated in response to a given experiment (assuming the experiment is operating at “steady state”); it does not account for natural variability or startup. In some cases the relative perturbations of the different experiments are somewhat arbitrarily chosen to explore the phase space (e.g., this is not meant to imply that MCB produces an inherently larger impact than cirrus cloud seeding). SOURCE: Keith et al., 2014.
A summary of results from these two workshops was presented at a briefing conducted at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) on June 5, 2014. Box 4.1 reproduces the answers to two questions considered in detail by participants in the San Francisco workshop:
Question 1. If a program manager gets a proposal for an outdoor climate-engineering experiment (involving controlled emissions), what should they do?
Question 2: If the government decides at some point to organize a strategic research program (including controlled emissions experiments) on climate engineering, what advice do we have?
BOX 4.1 RESPONSES TO KEY GOVERNANCE QUESTIONS IDENTIFIED IN PREVIOUS WORKSHOPS
Below are responses to two general questions about albedo modification research governance developed by participants in a workshop held in San Francisco (March 31 to April 2, 2014) in which participants examined eight field studies that had been proposed in a workshop at Harvard in early March.
Question 1. If a program manager gets a proposal for an outdoor climate engineering experiment (involving controlled emissions), what should they do?
- Start with a few good test cases. The first time a governance issue arises it can be very helpful if there are specific cases, not a broad class of projects that have been thoroughly explored. By focusing on a specific case, the discussion can be bounded and thus avoid making issues bigger than they need to be. This can help to establish a track record in dealing with a controversial subject and developing a process for assigning appropriate scrutiny and outreach. Program managers who get investigator-driven SRM research proposals should consider whether they have the attributes to make them a good test case.
- Seek independent and broad-based advice. Even for low-risk, small-scale experiments, the intent of the research will be controversial. Obtaining broad-based advice early will aid in addressing any controversies and providing guidance about a wide spectrum of physical and social risks and as well as the benefits of increased understanding that are posed by the proposed experiment. Securing independent advice can provide support for moving forward, or holding back depending on how the benefits compare to the risks. This process can be very useful as “training wheels” for constructing a formal broad-based advisory body should the U.S. government decide to establish a climate-engineering research program.
- Clearly identify the research as climate-engineering research. Obfuscation could easily lead to research being seen as violating the public trust. Equally important, early outdoor research (involving controlled emissions) of low risk provides an important
opportunity to develop governance practices and ensure public engagement early enough in the process to engage diverse stakeholders without engendering fixed positions on how to proceed.
- Require strong scientific justifications. Early research should be scientifically important, effectively addressing critical unknowns. The purpose and outcomes of this research should be highly compelling.
- Require careful preparation. Address safety and social concerns with more review and contingency planning than is the norm. Require effective public outreach and engagement, as opposed to just education. Rigorously ensure all regulatory requirements are thoroughly satisfied.
- Consider co-benefits for climate science. At the same time that climate-engineering research should not be hidden behind a climate science front, much of climate-engineering research will inspire investigators to address significant and difficult problems in climate science. U.S. research programs should emphasize this societal benefit. Research designed only to address climate-engineering issues should be considered for funding.
- Develop a narrative. Climate-engineering research should be seen in the context of the range of approaches being considered for dealing with the climate problem.
- Assess the early research and make a decision if and how to continue research. Starting with a small number of limited experiments provides an opportunity to learn and engage in adaptive management.
Question 2. If the government decides at some point to organize a strategic research program on climate engineering, what advice do we have?
- Use the experience of small-scale investigator-driven research to help plan the program. Start with small projects, and while learning through those efforts begin the process of setting a broad agenda.
- Make sure there is an independent advisory group. Establishing an advisory board early will provide an opportunity for the advisory function to gain experience by examining research that is relatively uncontroversial. If research moves into a mission-driven approach, the board will be better prepared to handle the more complex issues associated with vested interests, public deliberation and outreach, and interactions with the international community.
- Declare a moratorium on larger-scale interventions. Establish an upper limit on the duration, spatial scale, and forcing allowed for research and promote the adoption of a global moratorium of research beyond those limits.
- Treat climate engineering as a systems problem and design the research program accordingly. Bring scientists together to identify gaps with an understanding of the larger set of problems being addressed. Because the risks of climate-engineering research go beyond the physical realm, the process of shaping the science agenda should include
more than natural scientists and should include the human systems that would interact with any climate-engineering program.
- Make the research strategy for climate engineering part of a larger climate research strategy. We need to understand the implications of diverse options in terms of what outcomes they might provide for climate, humanity, and ecosystems.. Quoting one participant: “Only a fool would start on SRM if there was no strategy for mitigation.” Make sure the critical importance of this coupling is communicated successfully.
- Seek international involvement. As research becomes programmatic in nature, there will be concerns about issues such as the possibility that nations are weaponizing climate-engineering technologies or that there might be impacts on other nations from poorly understood connections. Ensuring that research is both transparent and unclassified, as well as involving international collaborations, will help, but not prevent, the possibility that climate engineering will become politicized. Establishing an international advisory group whose first job is to evaluate whether proposed research has international impact may also be helpful.
- Explore the human institutions that will be needed if we go beyond investigator-driven research. Investigator-driven research might (or might not) move to programmatic research, and from there to preparation for deployment and possibly deployment. It may become clear that climate engineering should never be deployed, but if it is, institutions will be needed to develop and deploy the methods. Go slow.
In addition to the workshop in San Francisco that built on the field experiments that were outlined at the Harvard workshop, a third workshop, “Understanding Process Mechanisms for the Governance of SRM Field Experiments,” was held on April 16 and 17, 2014, at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam that also used the Harvard workshop as a starting point. Organizers Stefan Schaefer and Nigel Moore of IASS write (IASS, 2014),
While the outcomes of the workshop are still being formed through follow-up activities, patterns emerged in the discussions throughout the workshop. Some of these initial findings are listed below:
- Aside from the largest of the proposed experiments (which might better be characterized as deployment than research), the experiments mostly seem to have low or negligible direct physical risks, whether to humans or the environment.
- The risks that came up as most worthy of near-term governance were not physical but rather social in nature. These tended to concern the risk that without reflexive
and accountable systems of control or information sharing, outdoors research might make it more likely that society proceeds uncritically toward deployment. These risks were difficult to delineate on an experiment-by-experiment basis and therefore it was often more productive to discuss the experiments as a group than individually.
While [environmental impact assessment] and disclosure mechanisms were seen as necessary components of a governance regime for SRM, they may not be sufficient in and of themselves. Current examples of these mechanisms from other areas of environmental and technology policy would likely need to be adapted to suit the unique context of SRM research. Many participants suggested that they should be used as tools for making research processes more transparent (including the results and risks of individual projects and the purpose of larger research programs).
Transparency in this case is also seen as a first step towards the integration of non-scientific perspectives into the design of research activities.
- Some participants were particularly concerned that devising governance for SRM—especially if the control mechanisms arise in direct response to existing research plans—may provide an enabling context for such activities to proceed, thus legitimizing SRM development and use in the absence of a broad societal consensus. Again, this concern was not one that applies to a single type of experiment, but may be more broadly applicable to SRM research as a whole. Reacting to this, other participants at the meeting suggested that efforts toward establishing societal consensus would have to take place through a different, though perhaps parallel, process as that of the regulation of single experiments so as to avoid the creation of a regulatory environment where every proposed experiment becomes a referendum on the entire field of research.
ETHICAL AND SOCIOPOLITICAL ISSUES
There are a number of ethical issues that accompany albedo modification, both in relation to research on albedo modification and in relation to its potential deployment (Burns and Strauss, 2013; Corner and Pidgeon, 2010; Preston, 2012). Research into proposed albedo modification techniques faces a so-called “double moral hazard” (see explanation in “Previous Discussions of Governance of Albedo Modification Research” section above). The idea of the moral hazard in relation to albedo modification is the subject of ongoing analysis and debate (Hale, 2012; Hamilton, 2013). There have been a number of articles discussing the moral and ethical responsibilities surround-
ing research into albedo modification (e.g., Bunzl, 2009; Jamieson, 1996; Schneider, 1996), including discussion of the argument that research in the near term is morally and ethically good in order to “arm the future” should future generations face a dire enough situation that they would consider deploying an albedo modification technology (e.g., Betz, 2012; Gardiner, 2010). Others have further argued that indoor research on albedo modification (e.g., computer modeling simulations) is ethical insofar as it provides information for policy makers and the public to make more informed choices, and that outdoor research (e.g., field experiments with controlled emissions) is “not ethical unless subject to governance that protects society from potential environmental dangers” (Robock, 2012).
The ethical issues related to the potential deployment of albedo modification include debates over the morality of deliberately taking control of the planet’s temperature, as well as discussion of the potential psychological effects of living in such a world (see Preston  and essays within). Furthermore, there are additional ethics issues that arise from the potential imposition of any actions by those deploying such measures on those who have no say or who may not favor such deployment, that is, marginalized, vulnerable, and voiceless populations. Nations with the means to deploy albedo modification techniques are more likely to have the means to adapt to the secondary effects of such deployments. Potential intergenerational implications compound the ethical issues regarding who has authority, whether legal or moral, to enter into deliberate actions that might precipitate profound effects or place obligations on future generations. Key questions have to be answered prior to undertaking large-scale research or any responsible deployment of albedo modification:
- Who decides if the benefits of albedo modification outweigh the risks, and what are the criteria?
- Who gets to decide when and in what way albedo modification will be undertaken?
- Would society ever know enough to responsibly decide to deploy albedo modification?
It is clear that further research on these ethical questions is required. Research on the social implications and ecological and economic ramifications of deployment could better define if it is possible to mitigate societal concerns and if so what would be required. The secondary physical effects of albedo modification, those not directly defined by the change in net radiative forcing, will potentially cause very large perturbations to biophysical systems with complex interactions at a diversity of scales ranging from the individual to the national. Moreover, international attitudes toward deployment of albedo modification strategies would have important implications for
how any deploying nation or group of people is perceived. Action with even the best intentions can be perceived negatively if those intentions are not clear and based on demonstrably credible research that supports that such actions would be overwhelmingly positive for humanity. Thus, the factors that affect perceptions, and the factors that affect social response to the outcomes of albedo modification, need to be extensively studied in order to strengthen—or at least minimize—the damage to international relationships prior to, during, and after any potential deployment.
RELEVANT U.S. LAWS AND INTERNATIONAL TREATIES
A number of domestic and international legal questions could arise from research on albedo modification or the deployment of albedo modification techniques. National governments are likely to grapple with these questions first, because they are likely to be the source of initial funding for albedo modification research. In the United States, for example, such research would be funded and/or conducted by federal agencies, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who would have to consider statutory limits on the scope of their work and what permissions would be required before the albedo modification research is conducted. A recent Congressional Research Service report (Bracmort and Lattanzio, 2013) lists federal agencies that have legislative authority to fund, conduct research, monitor projects, and promulgate or enforce regulations on albedo modification.
Although no legal mechanism has been created at either the national or international level specifically to address albedo modification research or deployment, there are a number of U.S. laws and international treaties that may apply and would have to be considered. At the federal level, this includes the Weather Modification Reporting Act, the National Weather Modification Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Relevant international treaties include the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its subsequent Montreal Protocol, the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP), the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD), and the Outer Space Treaty. There may be other local, state, and federal laws, as well as other international treaties, that are relevant to albedo modification research or deployment; more information can be found elsewhere (Hester, 2013; Lin, 2013a; SRMGI, 2013a).
The Weather Modification Reporting Act of 1972 and the National Weather Modification Policy Act of 1976 gave NOAA authority to require reporting of all weather modification activities in the United States. “Weather modification” is defined as “any activity performed with the intention of producing artificial changes in the composition, behavior, or dynamics of the atmosphere.” According to Morgan et al. (2013), “the U.S. National Weather Modification Reporting Act provides a statutory framework for making an SRM [solar radiation management] open-access research policy mandatory in the United States, at least insofar as the research entails field experiments that are conducted domestically and are of such a scale that they could actually affect climate or weather.”
Title VI of the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to require the phase-out of the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances in accord with the Montreal Protocol and its amendments. The EPA is required to add any substance with an ozone depletion potential of 0.2 or greater to the list of Class I substances and to set a phase-out schedule of no more than 7 years, and to add any substance that “is known or may reasonably be anticipated to cause or contribute to harmful effects on the stratospheric ozone layer” to the list of Class II substances and set a phase-out schedule of no more than 10 years. Thus, albedo modification techniques involving the injection of sulfur dioxide or other substances from U.S. territory into the stratosphere could be subject to Title VI if they are judged to deplete or cause “harmful effects” on stratospheric ozone.
The relevance of other provisions of the Clean Air Act to albedo modification is not clear. An expansive view of the Clean Air Act (Pub. L. 88-206, 42 U.S.C. §7401 et seq.) could include the authority to regulate albedo modification research activities, particularly those involving release of criterion pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (Bracmort and Lattanzio, 2013; GAO, 2010; Hester, 2013). Such an interpretation could be undertaken administratively without necessarily involving new legislation, but it is likely it would have to pass muster in the courts, as did the establishment of EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 requires all federal agencies to take environmental protection into account in decision making. The NEPA requirements are procedural; it requires agencies to consider environmental impacts but it does not prevent or preclude action. If a proposal is deemed a major federal action significantly affecting environmental quality, it can trigger a requirement to prepare an environ-
mental impact statement (EIS). In the case of a broad policy or program, a programmatic EIS might be required in addition to an EIS for each project. “In the case of research involving field experiments, the National Environmental Policy Act may require an Environmental Impact Assessment, unless the proposed project fits into a category excused from such assessment. If an assessment is required and prepared, the public will have ample notice and opportunity for comment” (Morgan et al., 2013).
Governance of local, state, or privately funded albedo modification activities is not straightforward. It may not be clear how this would happen, however, and may be more effectively addressed in the short term through norms within the scientific community. Ultimately if there was concern that such soft approaches were not sufficient it may require a legislative solution, which would be challenging given the lack of clarity of the risks and even the types of research that might be proposed.
Relevant International Treaties
Under the 1992 UNFCCC, parties commit to collect and share data on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to develop national policies to address GHG emissions, to achieve the ultimate objective of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system … within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner” (UNFCCC, 1992a). The focus of the Convention and subsequent protocols and agreements is on stabilizing GHG concentrations by reducing emissions and enhancing sinks, and facilitating adaptation to climate change. Although the possibility of reducing the climate impacts of increased GHG concentrations (e.g., through albedo modification) is not addressed in the Convention, there are provisions that may be considered applicable to albedo modification, including the requirement to “take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize” the effects of climate change and to consider “the adverse effects of … the implementation of response measures” (UNFCCC, 1992b).
The objective of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity is to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. The key principle of the Convention is the sovereign right of parties to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, while ensuring that their activities do not damage the environment of areas beyond the limit of their national jurisdiction. The United States signed but is not a party to the CBD. In October 2010, the CBD’s Conference of Parties issued
Decision X/33, which addressed climate engineering. The decision “invites Parties and other governments, according to national circumstances and priorities, as well as relevant organizations and processes,” to ensure that “no climate-related geo-engineering activities that may affect biodiversity take place, until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks for the environment and biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural impacts, with the exception of small scale scientific research studies that would be conducted in a controlled setting,” and then “only if they are justified by the need to gather specific scientific data and are subject to a thorough prior assessment of the potential impacts on the environment.” Thus, the CBD recognizes an exception for controlled scientific research for which there is an adequate scientific basis and where adequate consideration is given to the associated risks. Due to its hortatory language, Decision X/33 is generally not considered to be legally binding on parties to the CBD but is notable for being the first UN-body decision to address “climate related geoengineering” research writ large.
In the 1985 Vienna Convention, together with the 1987 Montreal Protocol and subsequent amendments, parties agree to adopt measures to reduce or prevent human activities that have or are likely to have adverse effects resulting from modification of the ozone layer. This has primarily involved agreements to phase out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances, but albedo modification techniques that involve injection of aerosols into the stratosphere also might be considered activities that may have adverse effects on ozone, and could therefore be subject to the Convention as more information becomes available.
The 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution defines “air pollution” as substances that “endanger human health, harm living resources and ecosystems and material property and impair or interfere with amenities and other uses of the environment,” and “long-range transboundary air pollution” as air pollution “which has adverse effects in the area under the jurisdiction of another State at such a distance that it is not generally possible to distinguish the contribution of individual emission sources or groups of sources.” Eight protocols to CLRTAP detail reduction commitments for specific pollutants, including sulfur, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and heavy metals. It is unclear if or how CLRTAP would apply to albedo modification activities. For example, small-scale experiments involving injection of sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere would not endanger human or environmental health, and even full-scale deployment is likely to have a negligible effect on rates of sulfate deposition and compliance with the CLRTAP protocol on sulfur emissions.
The 1977 Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques prohibits “military or any other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects as the means of destruction, damage or injury to any other State Party.” The Convention defines “environmental modification techniques” as “any technique for changing—through the deliberate manipulation of natural processes—the dynamics, composition or structure of the Earth, including its biota, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere, or of outer space.” Although albedo modification would be considered an “environmental modification technique” as defined by the Convention, Article III states “this Convention shall not hinder the use of environmental modification techniques for peaceful purposes and shall be without prejudice to the generally recognized principles and applicable rules of international law concerning such use.” Thus, ENMOD would appear to apply to albedo modification techniques only if they were applied in a hostile manner with the intent to cause damage to another party to the Convention, where the United Nations Security Council would be responsible for determining intent.
Finally, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty would apply to space-based albedo modification techniques, such as mirrors or shades orbiting the Earth or Sun. The Treaty provides that the “use of outer space … shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries,” that parties “shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space,” and that a party that places an object into space “is internationally liable for damage to another State Party to the Treaty or to its natural or juridical persons by such object.”
There is ongoing scholarship in this area, and further research on these legal questions would be helpful in understanding the existing national and international constraints on albedo modification research and deployment.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND PRIVATE-SECTOR ENGAGEMENT
Finally, the committee wishes to acknowledge that there are and will continue to be important issues associated with intellectual property and the engagement of the private sector in albedo modification. In general, engaging the private sector in research has known benefits. Such involvement can spur innovation, attract capital investment, lead to the development of more effective and lower cost technologies at a faster rate, and produce commercial spin-offs that benefit the economy (Bracmort and Lattanzio, 2013). For example, the involvement of private industry contributing to space exploration has generally been viewed quite positively. However, there are potential short-
comings as well, such as the possibility of neglecting social, economic, and environmental risk assessments in favor of the pursuit of corporate profitability. Perhaps the greatest concern with private-sector involvement is that an industry with product lines targeted toward albedo modification would create a group with a vested financial interest in deployment.
Intellectual property issues are not just a theoretical consideration for the future but have already emerged in at least one climate intervention experiment. The Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) experiment cancelled a field trial in 2012, partially on account of controversy over a patent application for the apparatus to deliver water mist to a 1-km altitude using a balloon and pipe. Many SPICE team members considered the patent submitted by another team member to be a conflict of interest and harmful to public perception of the project.
To this point, private-sector engagement in albedo modification has been modest. A substantial acceleration of albedo modification research would likely require additional incentives, such as public subsidies, GHG emission pricing, ownership models, intellectual property rights, and trade and transfer mechanisms for the dissemination of the technologies (Bracmort and Lattanzio, 2013). These incentives will determine not only whether but how the private sector engages with albedo modification. It would be preferable for the public to have substantial discussion as to what outcomes are desirable before determining what incentives to offer.
As discussed above, there have been repeated calls for the formation of a governance mechanism that allows for research on some types of proposed albedo modification proposals to be pursued. One of the common themes that emerges from these previous discussions is that, whatever the governance mechanism for some types of albedo modification research, it should be transparent and done with input from a broad set of stakeholders to engender trust among the stakeholders, and to ensure all dimensions are appropriately considered. Another common theme is that the goal of the governance should be to ensure that the benefits of research are realized toward helping society understand the challenges and impacts of albedo modification while minimizing the risks associated with the conduct of such research. The committee emphasizes that “governance” is not synonymous with “regulation” and that appropriate governance of albedo modification research could take a wide variety of forms depending on the types and scale of the research undertaken.
There have also been previous calls for the United States to lead the development of standard practices or “norms” that would likely be followed by researchers and funding agencies in other countries (Victor, 2008). As described below, there are no domestic laws or international legal agreements that directly regulate albedo modification research, but this lack of statute should not limit efforts to establish self-governance within the scientific community or more formal governance structures based on the principle that both transparency and civil society engagement are critical to development of support for continuation of research, let alone getting support for public financing of the research.
Whether the governance of albedo modification research is most effectively achieved through an expansion of existing structures or development of a separate structure specifically for this purpose is not clear, and it is not the purview of the committee to make such a determination. But as a society we are currently at a point in which governance of albedo modification research could get out in front of the need for that governance; thus, being proactive rather than reactive could allow for the development of a thoughtful and effective structure that will be commensurate with the needs and risks. In an arena where conspiracy theories already abound (e.g., chemtrails; see Appendix C), public trust will be undermined if research, particularly if funded with public money, occurs outside of public view (e.g., who is working on what and why).
Moving forward, the committee recommends the initiation of a serious deliberative process to examine (a) what types of research governance, beyond those that already exist, will be needed for albedo modification research, and (b) the types of research that would require such governance, potentially based on the magnitude of their expected impact on radiative forcing, their potential for detrimental direct and indirect effects, and other considerations, including sociopolitical risks. This is described further in Chapter 5.
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