Statement of Task
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine proposes to undertake a study that would develop a research agenda and recommend research governance approaches for climate intervention strategies that reflect sunlight to cool Earth. The proposed study would aim to address research needs and relevant research governance in tandem, such that the understanding and thinking on each can inform the other.
The study will focus on sunlight reflection strategies that involve atmospheric interventions, including marine cloud brightening, stratospheric aerosol injection, and cirrus cloud modification. It will consider trans-disciplinary research related to understanding the baseline chemistry, radiative balance, and other characteristics of the atmosphere; estimating the potential impacts and risks, both positive and negative, of these interventions on the atmosphere, climate system, natural and managed ecosystems, and human systems; technological feasibility of these interventions; and approaches and metrics for detecting, monitoring and quantifying the multiple physical and societal impacts of solar climate interventions.
The study will explore and recommend appropriate research governance mechanisms at international, national, and sub-national scales. It will consider research governance that already exists, examples of research governance mechanisms currently being used or considered for other areas of scientific inquiry that could be adapted to the realm of climate intervention research, and any potentially new frameworks required.
The committee will include two subpanels (composed of members of the committee) that will organize two workshops to address the research agenda and research governance considerations listed below. Drawing upon these workshops, other information gathering activities, and deliberations among the full membership, the committee will author a single consensus report providing its findings and recommendations. The committee will:
- Develop a detailed trans-disciplinary research agenda for sunlight reflection strategies. The committee will assess questions such as:
- What research is needed to assess the feasibility, efficacy, and risks of the proposed approaches?
- What research is needed to assess likely impacts and risks of reduced solar radiation on key global systems (including the oceans, ice sheets, food and fiber production, human health, solar and wind energy, terrestrial ecosystem functioning and biodiversity, and global biogeochemical cycles) and on achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals? What are the risks (environmental, social, geopolitical) of conducting such research?
- What research is needed to assess how reducing solar radiation could help avoid or trigger critical transitions in environmental systems?
- What relevant research is happening currently in the United States and abroad? What have we learned from this work?
- What are the important knowledge gaps and key technical constraints (such as model resolution or cloud physics)?
- What research is needed to address the knowledge gaps and key technical constraints? What are reasonable research goals for the next decade?
- What investments in observations, modeling capabilities, and other supporting research infrastructure will be necessary to advance the research agenda?
- What are benefits of the proposed research in advancing other areas of science?
- Explore and recommend appropriate research governance mechanisms. The committee will assess questions such as:
- How best to foster meaningful public participation and consultation in research planning and oversight, and to ensure transparency and accountability regarding a project’s goals and plans, potential risks, and eventual results?
- How to ensure that research is designed to minimize the chances of unintended impacts and is aimed at promoting the collective benefit of humankind and the environment?
- How to identify and apply professional standards of good scientific conduct?
- How to balance adequate oversight, review, public consultation, and approval mechanisms with norms for freedom of scientific inquiry?
- How to harness the benefits of potential private sector involvement (e.g., innovation, capital investment, cost minimization) without creating vested financial interests in operational deployment, inappropriate intellectual property claims, or threats to national and international public good?
- What statutory limits might affect what work can be funded by federal agencies and what research may need to adhere to particular existing federal policies or international agreements or processes?
- How to identify the governance mechanisms that should be in place in advance of field research at various scales?
The committee will be encouraged to look at examples of research governance mechanisms currently being used or considered for other areas of scientific inquiry that could be adapted to the realm of climate intervention research.
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