Solar Geoengineering Research Governance
Effective research governance is a critical component of any robust research program. In the context of SG, research governance relates not only to the physical risks of the research but also to dimensions such as public transparency over what work is being undertaken, procedural and control issues, who has input into decisions about whether research goes forward, liability for the consequences of research, and more general conflicts over the role of humans in the environment and the morality of specific types of research. There can be some inherent tensions among different governance goals. For instance, efforts to build trust and legitimacy through extensive public engagement could lead to some constraints on the goal of producing socially beneficial knowledge or could add to the costs of research. Importantly, however, governance and engagement efforts can also benefit and help enable research—especially for controversial, societally consequential issues such as SG—by building trust, legitimacy, accountability, and social responsiveness.
Building upon the analyses in the preceding chapters, which provided an overview of domestic and international mechanisms that could apply to the governance of SG research or deployment (Chapter 2) and considered the “decision space” and principles for SG research governance for SG research (Chapter 3), this chapter offers specific recommendations for governance aimed at SG research stakeholders, including researchers, funders of research, science agencies, national governments, international bodies, and other relevant organizations.
The limited efforts to date by states to engage in SG research governance suggest a potentially significant role for non-state actors in such governance. While Chapter 4 considered governance aimed at ensuring a socially robust research program, this chapter is more focused on the governance of individual research activities. Risks that play out programmatically may differ from risks that play out in the context of specific projects.
Many of the recommendations in this chapter—such as registries, codes of conduct, data sharing, and assessment—could be adopted at both national and international levels. However, with few exceptions, global agreements have evolved out of domestic laws and regulations—not necessarily as a matter of preference, but because initial momentum was built domestically (Morrow and Light, 2019). The exceptions, such as the creation of the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change, are important. Attempts at international governance, especially on new issues like SG, however, will confront the reality that the default multilateral consensus process often produces very weak initial agreements, especially among nearly 200 sovereign parties.
At a minimum, domestic and international governance should complement each other. Governance mechanisms and principles developed domestically can be informative to policy makers developing international governance mechanisms and may be developed and implemented more quickly than international efforts. In turn, successful international governance can improve domestic governance by reinforcing domestic efforts and creating expectations of greater levels of domestic enforcement. Simultaneous domestic and international efforts may increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and chance of success of advancing some level of effective governance.
Because domestic and international governance efforts are often pursued in different parts of governments and in different kinds of intergovernmental or nongovernmental institutions, this chapter is organized with the goal of enabling readers and policy professionals to readily identify the recommendations most relevant to them. The first section of the chapter provides recommendations that may be adopted by countries or subnational entities within countries and, in some cases, by the research community. The second section presents recommendations that may be adopted internationally. Several of the recommended governance mechanisms are discussed in both sections, as they would be useful at multiple levels. Analysis in support of recommendations in one section often supports recommendations made in the other section. The committee envisions that its recommendations will be acted upon in their totality, but each is worth pursuing individually.
Table 5.1 provides an overview of the governance mechanisms discussed in this chapter, goals and/or principles that they foster, and actors for the chapter’s governance recommendations.
As discussed in Chapter 2, some existing U.S. laws and regulations are potentially relevant to SG research, but these were not crafted with SG research in mind. At the domestic level, environmental laws may impose procedural obligations (e.g., the National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA) or substantive limits on conduct (e.g., the U.S. Clean Air Act). Indoor SG research (i.e., laboratory and modeling studies) generally would
TABLE 5.1 Governance Mechanisms Discussed in This Chapter
|Governance Mechanism||Goals/Principles Served by This Mechanism||Relevant Recommendations||Actor(s) Discussed in this Chapter|
|code of conduct||responsible science, effective practices||5.1a, 5.1b, 5.1c||researchers, funders of research, national institutions|
|registry||transparency, information sharing||5.1d, 5.1e, 5.1p||nations, researchers, funders of research, scientific publishers, appropriate international body|
|data sharing||transparency, information sharing||5.1j, 5.1k||researchers, funders of research, publishers|
|assessments and reviews||risk assessment, impact assessment, strengthen science, transparency, public engagement||5.1f, 5.1g, 5.1h, 5.1o||nations, funders of research, appropriate UN body or bodies|
|intellectual property||information sharing||5.1l||researchers|
|participation and stakeholder engagement||inclusivity, public engagement, transparency||5.1m, 5.1n, 5.1t, 5.1u||individuals, institutions, nations, researchers, funders of research, appropriate international and regional governance bodies funders of research, researchers|
|international cooperation and co-development on research teams||coordination of research, joint research projects/programs||5.1q|
|international cooperation among national scientific agencies||coordination of research, information sharing, joint research projects/programs||5.1r||science agencies|
|international information sharing and cooperation on SG research and research governance||coordination of research, information sharing, transparency, participation, and public engagement||5.1s||coalition of state and non-state actors|
|international anticipatory governance expert committee||risk assessment, effective practices, conflict resolution||5.1v||UN body or other international institution|
not trigger the application of existing environmental laws, and only some outdoor experiments would do so. Experiments with insignificant environmental impacts, and experiments lacking significant federal government involvement, would not be subject to NEPA’s requirements to prepare an environmental impact statement that would undergo public notice and comment. Outdoor research intended to produce artificial changes in the atmosphere would trigger the Weather Modification Reporting Act’s (WMRA) modest reporting requirements. The application of other environmental statutes to field research would depend on the nature of the research and the materials used and released. In any case, these statutes focus on physical impacts and not on the social or ethical concerns that frequently surround SG research. Tort law serves as another potential mechanism for governance of SG research, but it would generally require evidence that SG research caused harm to a plaintiff.
Current international law provides a general framework, but it does not explicitly promote, prohibit, or significantly limit SG research; nor does it provide a system of required or recommended research transparency or reporting mechanisms.1 Current institutions of international law could potentially address transboundary physical effects of research but not the broader political or ethical concerns that have been raised in the literature and by civil society organizations.
At the current stage of SG research—consisting primarily of modeling, observational studies of natural phenomena, and proposed small-scale field research with minimal or zero environmental or transboundary impacts—there would be very limited applicability of international institutions. If such institutions were to begin a deliberative process to directly address SG research, it would likely be a lengthy process, subject to rules and norms of consensus that more often than not govern these institutions and sometimes result in less ambitious or stringent outcomes. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that certain international institutions other than treaty bodies (e.g., international scientific organizations) could initiate voluntarily collaborative research and research governance activities in the short term.
While there are broader principles of international law that could be appealed to—for example, precautionary principle, intergenerational equity, etc.—the mechanisms for applying such principles are not well established. Such principles could be self-applied by nations but would lack any application or enforcement across borders. In the
1 See Chapter 2 for a survey of existing international conventions that either have explicitly attempted to address solar geoengineering (e.g., the UN Convention on Biological Diversity; the London Convention/ London Protocol), or could in principle form part of a global system of international SG governance given their current scope and activities (e.g., the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea).
particular case of an emergency situation involving unanticipated or unilateral deployment of SG, the UN Security Council could be convened in emergency session to respond. Options for recourse would, however, be unprecedented and subject to the veto powers of the five permanent members of the Council.
In addition to the various existing treaty bodies and agreements surveyed in Chapter 2 that could potentially continue discussion of SG research and its governance (e.g., CBD, London Convention and Protocol, UNFCCC and Paris Agreement, Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol, CLRTAP, ENMOD, and UNCLOS), the topic could also be taken up by the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), which has universal membership of all UN Parties. In spring 2019, the UNEA discussed, but did not agree to, a resolution from Switzerland that requested that the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director conduct an assessment of geoengineering technologies (inclusive of SG but also going beyond it) and offer options for possible governance frameworks. As a consequence, the resolution was withdrawn. However, the UNEA could still direct UNEP to do something similar in the future, either alone or working with other UN bodies. It could also request action by one or more UN convention or treaty bodies to take up SG, as it has on other issues in the past. UNEA, or another relevant UN convention or treaty body, could also request a study of SG—or ongoing assessment or monitoring of the state of the science and technology—from an allied international scientific body such as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)2 or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).3
Levels of international cooperation short of UN treaty bodies or organizations are more viable options. On climate change, the past decade has seen a steady increase in ministerial-level groups of countries working in parallel to UN processes to achieve complementary goals:
- In 2012, six countries (Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, and the United States) along with UNEP created the Climate and Clean Air Coalition
2 WMO, the International Science Council (ISC), and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission co-sponsor the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), which coordinates climate research initiatives at an international level. WCRP fosters innovation and collaboration through the organization of global meetings, workshops, and conferences (see https://www.wcrp-climate.org/wcrp-events). Scientific guidance is provided by the WCRP Joint Scientific Committee. Reynolds et al. (2017) have suggested that the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling could become the data repository and coordinator of standards for a research data commons on SG.
3 The IPCC is another potential locus for aspects of SG research governance. WMO and UNEP created the IPCC in 1988. Its objective is to provide policy makers with regular assessments of the scientific basis for climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC has 195 member states and draws upon the expertise of international climate experts around the globe. The IPCC does not conduct its own research.
- to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) to support research, deployment, and governance initiatives to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons. This voluntary coalition has since grown to include more than 120 state and non-state partners, who jointly fund an array of initiatives and projects and share domestic governance frameworks. CCAC is widely recognized as complementary to the objectives and goals of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, neither of which has specific provisions or programs related to this class of GHGs.
- Similarly, Mission Innovation, a voluntary endeavor of 24 countries and the European Commission (representing most of the world’s largest economies) founded on the eve of the negotiation of the Paris Agreement, commits its members to doubling their clean energy R&D investments in “selected priority areas” by 2020–2021. It has also evolved into a global “hub” and discussion forum for new cooperative initiatives, with members launching 59 collaborative research and technology programs since its founding. Mission Innovation is also tracking both public expenditures and private-sector investments in clean energy, providing an important window into this important world of climate-related technology development.
There are also a number of existing international scientific bodies that could serve as platforms for international cooperation and address some aspects of SG governance; for instance:
- The International Science Council (ISC) is a nongovernmental organization that brings together 40 international scientific unions and associations and more than 140 national and regional scientific organizations, including academies and research councils. ISC’s goals include coordinating international action on issues of scientific and public importance. ISC draws upon scientific expertise across both physical and social science disciplines. ISC could also draw upon its partnership with WMO’s Climate Change Research Programme.
- The InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) brings together three established networks of academies of science, medicine, and engineering: the InterAcademy Panel (the global network of science academies), the InterAcademy Medical Panel, and the InterAcademy Council (IAC). IAC has previously provided scientific advice on climate change. In 2010, for example, it conducted an independent review of IPCC processes and procedures. IAP also has contributed funding to the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative (SRMGI), which was launched in 2010 by the Environmental Defense Fund, the Royal Society, and The World Academy of Sciences to build capacity and
- understanding, particularly in the developing world. Although the SRMGI does not have the capacity itself to develop a governance framework for SG research, IAP could draw upon the SRMGI’s network and capacity building expertise.
- The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), an interdisciplinary committee of ISC, provides a potentially useful model for international scientific cooperation. Established in 1958, SCAR initiates, develops, and coordinates international scientific research in the Antarctic region and provides independent scientific advice to the Antarctic Treaty System and the IPCC. The scientific community drives SCAR activities. In 2014, for instance, SCAR convened scientists, national program directors/managers, and policy makers from 22 countries to identify priorities for Antarctic research for the next several decades (the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Science Horizon Scan, Kennicutt et al. ). An institution modeled upon SCAR could provide a mechanism for international scientific coordination of a science program, the prioritization of research questions, data sharing, and the provision of scientific advice on environmental issues to international policy makers.
While there are thus numerous potential models for collaboration, to date the vast majority of nations have not expressed formal views on the benefits and risks of SG research or on the merits and international architecture of research governance. It is quite possible that many national governments and civil society institutions may decide to oppose an expanded SG research enterprise, based on ethical, geopolitical, or scientific risk assessment grounds, and try to constrain efforts to create international governance practices and institutions.
Unless and until international SG research governance emerges through one or another path, it is incumbent on any country where SG research is being conducted to create mechanisms and institutions to govern this work. While ideally, international governance practices and institutions should be created as soon as possible, in reality, such mechanisms may emerge only after responsibility has been embraced at the national level (as mentioned earlier)—and there is commitment by more countries to engage with research, deter unsafe research activities, or to regulate activities with potentially significant transboundary impacts.
5.2 NATIONAL/DOMESTIC RESEARCH GOVERNANCE
In light of the limited applicability of existing U.S. law to much SG research, particularly with regard to research that has little to no anticipated physical impacts, it is important to consider other mechanisms for the domestic governance of SG research, as discussed below.
The recommendations below address concepts that are relevant to the governance of SG research in all countries, but they are largely framed in terms of applicability to U.S. institutions and the U.S. regulatory environment, as this report is the product of the U.S. National Academies’ process and committee members are most familiar with U.S. institutions and processes. U.S. actors have been identified in certain instances, but robust governance is very important in all jurisdictions, and recommendations often have applicability to other countries conducting SG research. Nevertheless, as an expansion of SG research to other countries may occur in regulatory environments that are very different from those found in the United States, the full range of challenges and opportunities in those environments is difficult to anticipate.
Codes of Conduct
Codes of conduct offer a mechanism for responding to environmental, social, and ethical concerns. Researchers may voluntarily adhere to codes of conduct, funders of research may require adherence to such codes as a condition of funding, and funders themselves may adhere to code provisions (Hubert and Reichwein, 2015). Codes of conduct also may serve as a foundation for more formal governance efforts, whether domestic or international.
Codes of conduct typically emphasize that research should be performed for the public good. Codes of conduct often call for the maintenance and protection of the scien-
tific quality of proposed research; the recognition and application of due diligence to environmental, social, and ethical implications of research; promotion of public notice and participation; post-project monitoring; and access to information.
Specific codes of conduct for SG research, such as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Geoengineering Research, developed by Anna-Maria Hubert and David Reichwein at the University of Calgary (hereafter,“Calgary Code”), have been developed, vetted with various stakeholders, and proposed (see Chapters 2 and 3). Some code provisions apply specifically to outdoor experiments (e.g., atmospheric experiments with the potential for transboundary impacts without some form of acceptable prior consent should be avoided), while others apply to SG research generally (e.g., research funding should be limited to entities that prioritize mitigation and adaptation).
A sanctioning body can revise a code and offer interpretative guidance as needed. However, no SG research code of conduct has achieved wide adoption by researchers, professional societies, businesses, philanthropies, or governmental institutions, and no code of conduct specific to SG has been formally sanctioned by any government, professional society, or other relevant institution.
Ideally, a code of conduct would be adopted at an international level. An international scientific society could assist in the development of a code of conduct. For example, the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) developed guidelines for the responsible and ethical conduct of human embryonic stem cell research; ISSCR members make a personal commitment to uphold the society’s guidelines. At this time, however, no equivalent professional society exists for the SG research community. Institutions that could, in principle, develop or accept a code of conduct for SG researchers include WMO, ISC, IAC, and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). These organizations have broad international membership, enabling them to reach scientists around the world.
A pathway for the development of an international code of conduct is described below.
Transparency can serve multiple ends. With respect to SG research, it can promote public understanding of SG and its risks, foster accountable and legitimate decision making, and engender trust in institutions of SG governance (Callies, 2018; Craik and Moore, 2014; Rayner et al., 2013). Transparent reporting of research can also help researchers keep track of ongoing research and share information (Nicholson et al., 2018). Moreover, transparency can facilitate transnational research coordination and collaboration and build trust between states whose research agendas may be motivated by self-interest (Craik and Moore, 2014). Outdoor experiments or field tests warrant particular attention to transparency because of their potential physical impacts,
but transparency rationales apply to other types of SG research as well (Craik and Moore, 2014; Rayner et al., 2013).
A public registry of SG research could be a powerful tool in an effort to promote transparency. For a registry to be credible, the institution maintaining the registry should be perceived as impartial (Craik and Moore, 2014). Such a registry could be established and administered by a research center, university, international research organization, government agency, or other entity.
Fundamental questions in registry design include whether participation would be voluntary or mandatory, whether funders or researchers would participate, whether the registry would include only field experiments or extend to all SG research, how SG research would be defined, what information would be reported and disclosed, and how to incentivize disclosure (Craik and Moore, 2014).
Useful examples of the registry approach may be found in several fields. In the medical field, for example, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) established in 2005 a policy requiring researchers, as a condition of consideration for publication, to post information about clinical trials in an approved public registry at the time of or before patient enrollment (Laine et al., 2007). Within the United States, Congress has mandated that sponsors and researchers post information about clinical trials on ClinicalTrials.gov, a public database available to clinicians, researchers, and patients (Laine et al., 2007).4 Clinical trials registries have also been set up in other countries, driven by the leading journals’ requirements that they will only publish papers on clinical trials if those trials have been put into a public registry.
To advance research, the National Institutes of Health established the Genetic Testing Registry “to advance the public health and research into the genetic basis of health and disease.” It “provides a central location for voluntary submission of genetic test information by providers.” Its “scope includes the test’s purpose, methodology, validity, evidence of the test’s usefulness, and laboratory contacts and credentials.”5
4 “ClinicalTrials.gov was created as a result of the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997 (FDAMA). FDAMA required the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the National Institutes of Health, to establish a registry of clinical trials information for both federally and privately funded trials conducted under investigational new drug applications to test the effectiveness of experimental drugs for serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions.” “ClinicalTrials.gov registration requirements were expanded after Congress passed the FDA Amendments Act of 2007 (FDAAA). Section 801 of FDAAA (FDAAA 801) requires more types of trials to be registered and additional trial registration information to be submitted.” See https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/about-site/background.
In the climate arena, the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program collects GHG information “from large emitting facilities, suppliers of fossil fuels and industrial gases that result in GHG emissions when used, and facilities that inject carbon dioxide underground.”6 This system was implemented under 40 CFR Part 98, following the publication on October 30, 2009, of a rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). GHG emitters must submit annual reports that provide data collected during the previous calendar year (EPA, 2014).
With regard to SG research, reports required under the WMRA could serve as a starting point for a federal research registry, but such reports are only required for some field experiments and not at all for computer modeling or indoor experiments. Registries established in one or more nations could serve as a foundation for a multinational or international registry (see Recommendation 5.1p below). A model of this type is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Human Genome Editing Registry. Established in 2019, this registry “is a central database that collects information on clinical trials using human genome editing technologies…that uses data collected by the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP). The ICTRP gathers the trial registration data sets provided by Primary Registries,”7 national registries “that meet specific criteria for content, quality and validity, accessibility, unique identification, technical capacity and administration.”8
In scientific publishing, there are instances in which editors require participation in a registry as a prerequisite to publication. As mentioned previously, the ICMJE “requires, and recommends that all medical journal editors require, registration of clinical trials in a public trials registry at or before the time of first patient enrollment as a condition of consideration for publication....The ICMJE recommends that journals publish the trial registration number at the end of the abstract.”9
6 See https://www.epa.gov/ghgreporting/ghg-reporting-program-data-sets.
7 See https://www.who.int/health-topics/ethics/human-genome-editing-registry#:~:text=The%20Human%20Genome%20Editing%20(HGE,Trials%20Registry%20Platform%20(ICTRP).
8 See https://www.who.int/ictrp/network/primary/en/.
9 See http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/publishing-and-editorial-issues/clinical-trialregistration.html.
Assessments and Reviews
Assessments of uncertainty and the impacts of SG research can identify risks, foster transparency and public participation, and enable consideration of risks in decision making processes (Rayner et al., 2013). Assessments may consider not only physical impacts, as in environmental impact assessments, but also social, economic, and other non-physical impacts, as is often done in assessments of emerging technologies (Lin, 2016; Rayner et al., 2013). Programmatic-level assessments, as opposed to assessments of individual projects, allow for the evaluation of the impacts of policies or multiple projects (Lin, 2016) and could analyze cumulative impacts from multiple experiments (Burger and Gundlach, 2018). A programmatic assessment may consider the cumulative developmental trajectory of all SG research activities, regardless of institutional affiliation or funding source, and need not be limited in scope to a formal program.
When combined with public comment mechanisms, assessment processes can help make risks transparent and promote public engagement (Craik and Moore, 2014). Specifically, it is important to allow the public to have meaningful representative input regarding whether and how SG research proceeds (recognizing that public engagement can also improve the processes and results of SG research). Public comment opportunities alone, however, do not ensure effective public engagement; it is likewise important to develop mechanisms that help ensure policy decisions about research directions and priorities are responsive to public engagement (Jinnah, 2018).
Assessment may be performed by the scientists undertaking the research, funders of research, an independent review body, or a government agency. Proposals are commonly subject to peer review as part of the process of determining whether to fund a research project. Assessment by an entity independent of the research scientists promotes impartiality and confidence in the assessment process (Rayner et al., 2013). Including social scientists, members of civil society, and natural scientists on a review body could promote the consideration of a broader range of concerns and perspectives. A transparent, open advisory body could review SG research on an ongoing basis, promote international cooperation, and recommend policies and practices on SG research and research governance (Winickoff and Brown, 2013).
A permit is a “statutorily authorized . . . granting of permission to do that which would otherwise be statutorily prohibited” (Biber and Ruhl, 2016). Permits may be issued in the form of general permits, for which an approved category of activities is allowed unless approval is withdrawn, or specific permits, for which an applicant must request permission to engage in an activity that is otherwise prohibited (Biber and Ruhl, 2016). If well designed, permit requirements (or other funding conditions or approval processes) can be an effective way to address some concerns associated with research. Poorly designed requirements may create undue barriers to research (Parker, 2014).
Approval processes may be designed in different ways—for example, to require affirmative approval of a permit application, to presume approval in the absence of objections, or to simply require notice (Bodle et al., 2014; Parker, 2014). A general permit system requires more work upfront to establish the parameters and conditions of the permit. General permits can cover the activities of a large number of actors at a relatively low cost. They can also reduce or eliminate the need for a permit application
or for individualized approval of a contemplated activity (Biber and Ruhl, 2016). In contrast, a specific permit system shifts workload to the processing of permit applications (Biber and Ruhl, 2016). Specific permits, which can be tailored to particular situations, are better suited for activities in which the risks of harm are significant or highly variable (Biber and Ruhl, 2016). Different types of SG experiments (e.g., laboratory, process studies, and scaling tests) might be subject to different types of permitting systems, or even exempted, based on anticipated risks.10
Under existing U.S. law, indoor SG experiments, outdoor observational research, and some outdoor experiments could take place without giving notice to the public or to the government, or seeking government approval, though, as noted earlier, the WMRA requires any person engaging in weather modification activity—defined to include “any activity performed with the intention of producing artificial changes in the composition, behavior, or dynamics of the atmosphere”—to submit a report of such activity. Some SG field experiments would be subject to this reporting requirement, but the WMRA does not require a permit for weather modification activity, and such experiments may not trigger state permitting requirements for weather modification.
In the case of SG research, a permit requirement can promote information gathering on SG research activities and increase their transparency, ensure that harmful impacts are minimized, and provide public assurance that research is being undertaken in a responsible manner. The need to obtain social license for SG research in light of its mission-driven nature, and as suggested, for example, by public and stakeholder reactions to the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) experiment, points in favor of a permit requirement or similar form of governance.
10 While some SG will not engender physical risks, physical risks are not the only risks of concern to the public. To understand the range of issues that may raise public concern, transparency in the conduct of research is critical (Dilling and Hauser, 2013).
The National Academies study Open Science by Design: Realizing a Vision for the 21st Century noted that openness and sharing of scientific information are fundamental to the progress of science and the effective functioning of the research enterprise (NASEM, 2018b). The report describes a global research community trend toward an open science ecosystem to enable free availability to scholarly publications and research data.
Sharing of SG research data on both a national and international level offers many benefits. Data sharing enables other scientists to reproduce or replicate reported work, strengthening scientific rigor. It also allows researchers to bring data from multiple fields to bear on their work, opening up new areas of inquiry and expanding the opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. Data collected for one purpose may be reused to build upon the initial field of research or to study other fields of research. This reuse of data also facilities more effective use of resources, enabling faster and more inclusive dissemination of knowledge.
The United States has a long history of promoting public access to research data arising from federally funded research. The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a February 2013 Memorandum “Expanding Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Science,” which directed federal agencies with more than $100 million in annual research and development (R&D) expenditures to develop plans for increasing public access to the results of research they support, including scholarly publications and digital data. The memorandum recognized that “making research results accessible to the largest possible audience—other researchers, business innovators, entrepreneurs, teachers, students, and the general public—can boost the returns from federal investments in R&D. Increased access expands opportunities for new scientific knowledge to be applied to areas as diverse as health, energy, environmental protection, agriculture, and national security and to catalyze innovative break-
throughs that drive economic growth and prosperity.” As a result, 17 federal science agencies have issued public access plans covering digital data. Data sharing requirements are typically implemented by agency policies or grant conditions.11
On an international level, data sharing has been an integral component of international scientific research collaboration. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) issued a recommendation on principles and guidelines for access to research data from public funding in 2006 to foster international cooperation (OECD, 2017); the Group on Earth Observations (GEOSS), an intergovernmental group dedicated to sharing environmental data and information collected from Earth observing systems, established data sharing principles which promote the full and open exchange of data with minimal possible costs, delay and restriction as a foundation for GEOSS (GEOSS, 2015); and the Multinational Coordinated Arabidopsis thaliana Genome Research Project12 included a plan for data sharing, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) implemented data sharing requirements through the grant process.
As discussed in Chapter 2, intellectual property law may influence the pace and direction of SG research by incentivizing innovation or by restricting others’ access to inno-
11 For publications, the majority of agencies require investigators to make peer-reviewed journal articles resulting from funded research publicly accessible in designated repositories not more than 1 year after their official date of publication.
12 The Multinational Coordinated Arabidopsis thaliana Genome Research Project unified the efforts of international teams who had been decoding this genome sequence since the early 1990s. In the United States, an interagency program began in 1996 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Arabidopsis researchers from the United States, Europe, Australia, and Japan formed an ad hoc committee and drafted a plan for the Multinational Coordinated Arabidopsis thaliana Genome Research Project. See IOM, 1996 and NSF, 2002.
vation. To date, patents or other intellectual property protections have not obstructed SG research, and the dominant practice among SG researchers has been to share and make data publicly available (Reynolds et al., 2017). The expansion of SG research and involvement of commercial actors in such research may, however, reduce the openness that has characterized the sharing of SG research and of data.
National law governs many requirements for patents, and patent protections are limited to the jurisdiction where the patent was issued. Researchers may, however, seek access to an invention patented by inventors in other countries or inventions that are patented in multiple countries. International treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)13 (e.g., the Paris Convention,14 the Patent Law Treaty,15 and the Patent Cooperation Treaty16) have been developed to coordinate and harmonize patenting practices and provide mechanisms for the resolution of intellectual property disputes (Reynolds et al., 2017).17
Unobstructed national and international access to SG research and data can facilitate further research (Contreras, 2015), promote transparency, and foster public engagement. Pledges not to assert patents have been made with respect to open source software, information and communication technologies, environmental technologies, and life science technologies (Contreras, 2015). National and international efforts that enable researchers to access relevant patented technologies at little or no cost, or that encourage pledges from patent holders to refrain from asserting their patents against researchers, can stimulate research. The assertion of broad patent rights could influ-
13 “WIPO is the global forum for intellectual property (IP) services, policy, information and cooperation.”“A self-funding agency of the United Nations, with 193 member states,” WIPO’s “mission is to lead the development of a balanced and effective international IP system that enables innovation and creativity for the benefit of all.”Its“mandate, governing bodies and procedures are set out in the WIPO Convention, which established WIPO in 1967.” See https://www.wipo.int/about-wipo/en/.
14 The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, as amended on September 28, 1979, provides for national treatment, the right of priority, and other common rules in the field of patent law. See https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/treaties/textdetails/12633.
15 The Patent Law Treaty of 2000 provides common requirements for procedures before national/ regional patent offices. See https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/treaties/textdetails/12642.
16 The Patent Cooperation Treaty establishes an international patent filing system. See https://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/registration/pct/summary_pct.html.
17 In addition, the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) contains IP rules related to patents. Provision 30 of the TRIPS Agreement provides that members may be provided limited exceptions to the exclusive rights conferred by a patent provided that such exceptions do not unreasonably conflict with the normal exploitation of the patent and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interest of the patent owner, taking account of the legitimate interest of third parties. A 2006 OECD Directorate for Science,Technology and Industry Working Paper 2006/2,“Research Use of Patented Knowledge,”authored by Chris Dent, Paul Jensen, Sophie Waller, and Beth Webster, discusses TRIPS Provision 30 in the context of research use exemptions in national patent laws.
ence technological development in favor of private interests and undermine public trust in SG technologies (Reynolds et al., 2017). Indeed, as noted above, the field trial component of the SPICE project was suspended in the wake of concerns regarding patent rights to the technology being tested.
Pledges not to assert patents18 or providing for royalty-free licenses are implementable via documented, uniform, and internationally coordinated commitments or via informal single commitments.
Participation and Stakeholder Engagement
If SG research evolves from its current fragmented state to a full-scale research enterprise, then ambitious, inclusive, and effective public and stakeholder engagement will be important for the development of an SG research enterprise that could be widely viewed as legitimate, useful, and deserving of public support. Public engagement can “improve the quality [and] legitimacy” of environmental decisions and strengthen the capacity of all participants—including scientists and other experts—to develop policies informed by scientific knowledge and social values (NRC, 2008).
Designing effective public engagement requires determining when, why, in what contexts, by whom, and who to engage. While it may not be feasible or desirable for every SG research project to have its own dedicated public engagement effort, it will be important for researchers to consider how public engagement strategies should be implemented and how the results of such efforts can feed back into research projects (at the individual investigator and, where applicable, programmatic levels). One size does not fit all. For example, while computer modeling studies do not physically release particles into the environment, they can create a durable set of future imaginaries for the public that embody value choices (McLaren, 2018). While not every project needs to (or should) conduct its own public engagement effort, mechanisms could be developed at a program level to share public engagement findings with all researchers, who could consider the implications for their own research directions and
18 “A patent pledge is a publicly announced intervention by patent-owning entities (‘pledgers’) to out-license active patents to the restricted or unrestricted public free from or bound to certain conditions for a reasonable or no monetary compensation.” See Ehrnsperger and Tietze (2019).
priorities. And, although field experiments might have negligible physical impacts, the implications of conducting field experiments in the open environment (over particular jurisdictions where people live) may trigger needs for dedicated public engagement efforts to build trust and understand what is permissible to the public and what is not.
Public engagement in SG research is supported by normative, instrumental, and substantive rationales (Flegal et al., 2019; see also Fiorino, 1990). Given the tremendous array of stakeholders that could ultimately be affected by SG implementation, it is important to develop mechanisms for meaningful representative input regarding whether and how research proceeds. While no formal guidelines for the design and governance of such engagement have been developed specifically for SG research, guidelines and tools designed and applied to support and encourage meaningful public and stakeholder engagement in U.S. and international environmental decision making are broadly applicable. The public participation guide developed by EPA (2012), for example, was “designed with government agencies in mind, to help those who must manage the process where public participation is important for decision making, while incorporating fair treatment, meaningful involvement and social inclusion of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sexual orientation or income.”
The EPA guidelines describe meaningful public participation as requiring “more than simply holding public meetings or hearings or collecting public comment.” Rather, it entails “seeking public input at the specific points in the decision process and on the specific issues where such input has a real potential to help shape the decision or action.” It consists “of a series of activities and actions over the full lifespan of a project to afford stakeholders the opportunity to influence decisions that affect their lives.”
Both EPA and the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) detail five possible forms, or levels, that public participation in decision making might take. These range from simply informing the public about a decision to be made to empowering the public with full decision-making authority. Table 5.2 describes these levels with examples and specific reference to SG research.
The level and specific approach to public and stakeholder engagement will likely vary across research domains: what is most well suited for the co-development of SG modeling scenarios, if applicable, may differ from effective practices for public and stakeholder engagement on decisions about stratospheric aerosol injection experiments.19 Given the controversial nature of this issue and the global-scale impact of
19 Note that the committee has not attempted to specify acceptable levels of engagement for various SG research domains—these should be developed in consultation with engagement experts and stakeholder groups and incorporated into SG codes of conduct as described above.
TABLE 5.2 Levels of Public and Stakeholder Engagement in Solar Geoengineering Research and Research Governance
|Level of Engagement||Explanation||Example Methods|
|Inform||Provide public and stakeholders with information on risks and potential of SG research in the context of climate change.||Fact sheets, educational webinars|
|Consult||Understand public and stakeholder preferences on scope and focus of SG research.||Public comment periods on federal rulemakings, focus groups|
|Involve||Engage with stakeholders early and throughout a process with multiple opportunities to provide input and nonbinding recommendations on various decisions over SG research design. Provide feedback to show how input influenced a decision or a response as to why it was not used.||Deliberative workshops with sets of stakeholders|
|Collaborate||In addition to the engagement described in “involve,” include stakeholders directly with decision making with an intention toward building consensus/coming to an agreement. Ultimate decision making remains with the governance body.||Deliberative workshops building toward consensus agreement with decision makers|
|Empower||In addition to the engagement process in “collaborate,” provide decision-making authority to the engaged public.||Informed consent in human subjects research|
SOURCE: Adapted from the EPA Public Participation Guide (EPA, 2012), IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum (IAP2, 2014), and Talati and Frumhoff (2020).
potential deployment, a reliance only on low-level engagement mechanisms (“inform” and “consult”) is likely not sufficient, especially if and when outdoor experimental components are included in SG research. Rather, the legitimacy and effectiveness of research programs to inform decision making may require more inclusive public and stakeholder engagement efforts (e.g., at levels of “involve” and “collaborate”).
The committee has not attempted to specify acceptable levels of engagement for various SG research domains. Rather, these should be developed in consultation with engagement experiments and stakeholder groups, draw upon lessons from efforts to develop and test approaches to public engagement in SG research (see Box 5.1),
and be incorporated into mechanisms for public and stakeholder engagement in the design of a research program (see Chapter 4) and in codes of conduct as described above.
Participation in SG research, governance discussions, and public engagement exercises has been extremely limited. To date, most public engagement initiatives have been centered in wealthy nations such as the United States. If this focus on wealthy nations continues, it could create inequities in the development of SG knowledge and governance and limit the range of knowledge that is produced. The current public understanding of SG, while low, will likely grow as SG receives more attention. Broader and more inclusive engagement could contribute to greater justice and legitimacy for research and research governance, and help avoid the perception that SG may be developed solely by one party or a small number of parties without international input or cooperation, further exacerbating climate-related inequities. Research suggests that, to be effective, inclusivity needs to be institutionalized as part of SG research and research governance through the establishment of systematic and sustained opportunities for public and stakeholder engagement.
Efforts to foster greater diversity and inclusion within the community of professional SG researchers, as well as those involved in developing research governance, can also play an important role. See Box 2.1 for discussion of the current challenges of limited diversity within the SG research field. Greater researcher diversity—along with inclusion, which requires that diverse contributors are respected, involved, and empowered—can contribute to a broader and more robust research process and more effective innovation (Hofstra et al., 2020; Nielsen et al., 2017; Page, 2017). For example, climate and social scientists from throughout the world could bring valuable region-specific knowledge and perspectives relevant to identifying priority research questions, developing and refining models, and assessing possible impacts. Winickoff et al. (2015) argue that greater geographical diversity, including broader engagement by researchers and experts from the Global South, will be important in “defining the most relevant climate engineering problems; designing models and experiments that best study them; collecting climate data where there are current gaps; and facilitating the exchange between experts and the broader society.”
5.3 INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH GOVERNANCE
In addition to the recommendations for domestic governance of SG research discussed above, complementary action should be taken at the international level.
As discussed earlier, a resolution was introduced in 2019 by UNEA requesting that UNEP lead an assessment of geoengineering technologies. A lead negotiator involved indicated that relatively few negotiators participating in these deliberations were prepared for a discussion of geoengineering.20 News reports from this UNEA session also noted that some parties opposed introducing this new initiative through UNEA, arguing that it should instead be taken up by the UNFCCC (Chemnick, 2019). This disagreement regarding where a discussion on SG governance should take place can in turn cut the conversation short in different forums before it starts.
Nonetheless, an authoritative international survey that gauges the scale and scope of SG research activities would be valuable. For those concerned that research on geoengineering could displace GHG mitigation research, an assessment of geoengineering research—particularly if updated annually—could provide an important benchmark
20 Franz Xaver Perrez, Head, International Affairs Division, Switzerland’s Federal Office and Lecturer of International Environmental Law, University of Bern School of Law, Remarks Before the Committee, July 22, 2019. This may reflect the fact that active geoengineering research is under way in only a small number of countries to date.
to compare the relative levels of funding going to these different activities. An annual report could also form the basis for a global registry for SG research.
International Registry of SG Research
An international assessment (such as that described above) might be limited by the availability of data and cooperation among countries, philanthropies, and the private sector, but a registry could eventually become more comprehensive and informative with increasing levels of participation by national governments that have effective means of acquiring information within their borders. Broad, meaningful, and verifiable participation in an international registry also could compel parties both to create their own authoritative domestic registries and to participate fully in the international registry. Funders, publishers, and others could require participation in the registry.
WHO recently created a registry for human genome clinical trials. The initial phase will use the ICTRP, a WHO entity. The lessons learned in the establishment of the WHO registry could inform the development of an SG registry. There is also precedent for such mechanisms at WMO, which established a registry of weather modification projects in the 1960s in response to international concerns at the time.
Promotion of International Cooperation and Co-development on Research Teams
A central goal of SG research is to understand the relative risks and benefits of different SG strategies and the distribution of these risks and benefits. An SG program that only benefits a small minority is likely not worth pursuing, especially if it magnifies risks for a majority and exacerbates already-existing global inequalities and vulnerabilities to climate change. As Chhetri et al. (2018) argue, international cooperation in SG research can provide a hedge against such outcomes.
International cooperation can begin with research teams and partnerships, in which researchers can bring to a common endeavor their understanding of differing national circumstances. International research programs provide opportunities to build trust among parties and open channels for cooperation that may eventually translate into channels for international cooperation on governance. Such partnerships provide opportunities for diffusion of best practices (e.g., through codes of conduct) and protocols for environmental and health safety. As noted in Chhetri et al. (2018),“State and private funders that choose to fund SG research should give priority to international teams and partnerships, keeping in mind that the scale and type of research will influence what level of partnership is possible for any particular undertaking” (ibid).
One good example of an effort to incentivize international research engagement is the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA), carried out in the early 2000s. The LBA’s ecology mission, sponsored by NASA in collaboration with the government of Brazil, was “designed to better understand cycles of water, energy, carbon and nutrients, resulting from the changes in Amazonian vegetation cover, and associated climatic and environmental consequences at local, regional, and global scales.”21 LBA-Ecology science teams trained more than 500 students and were “involved in transferring of appropriate technological skills and capacity building in collaboration with graduate programs in Brazilian and South American institutions through a variety of initiatives.”The LBA “provided infra-structure and financial support for a large number of scientific related activities for capability enhancement and dissemination of science.”22
21 See https://geo.arc.nasa.gov/sg/lba.html.
22 See https://lbaeco-archive.ornl.gov/lbaeco/out/out_activities.htm.
Promotion of International Cooperation Among National Scientific Agencies
National research funding agencies, individually or as members of a national program, can promote international cooperation in SG research through coordination with other national-level research programs. Ideally, participants would include both nations that are funding SG research and members of the broader research community from countries that do not have national-level research programs. Some potential models for international coordination among national funding agencies include the Belmont Forum23 and the Multinational Coordinated Arabidopsis thaliana Genome Research Project.24 Cooperative activities may enhance international coordination among scientists and create a conduit for promoting best practices, even in the absence of “hard” governance institutions (Reynolds et al., 2017).
23 The Belmont Forum is a partnership of funding organizations, international science councils, and regional consortia committed to international transdisciplinary research for understanding, mitigating, and adapting to global environmental change. Members include the United States, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, the Ivory Coast, Mexico, and South Africa. The Forum adopted an open data policy and principles. See http://www.belmontforum.org/.
24 See footnote 12 above.
Voluntary Coordination and Cooperation by Countries and Non-State Actors
Negotiation of a new UN-based international body or agreement specific to SG is extremely unlikely at this time or in the near term. There are no comparable UN-level treaties or agreements on other climate-relevant technologies, and, as noted above, some observers believe that the level of familiarity with SG research among environmental ministries and departments is relatively low. Reaching an agreement for an existing international convention or treaty body to take responsibility for SG research governance, while more likely, is improbable in the near term, especially if the goal of such an agreement is to establish a binding governance mechanism. Nevertheless, there are pathways to achieving substantial international cooperation on climate-related governance among countries.25 The CCAC, Mission Innovation, and other similar multilateral climate-focused institutions have demonstrated, with varying degrees of success, the potential for a group of self-selected countries to identify and collectively address a neglected and important area of needed environmental cooperation; pool resources; develop a common understanding of risk; coordinate research (by promoting efficiency, avoiding redundancy, saving money, identifying research gaps, etc.); and create global norms of transparency, accountability, and responsibility.
25 However, the models discussed have not been applied specifically to SG.
At present, we cannot predict which state or non-state actors would take the lead in creating a coalition like the one envisioned. As in other international forums like the one envisioned here, different countries would appoint different lead agencies or ministries. It is expected that the responsible parties in each country would be identified by their national governments, and, as has been the case with similar efforts in the past, full participation from each country would be worked out at an intergovernmental level.
Public and Stakeholder Engagement
Mechanisms to foster public engagement in SG research may be more feasible to implement at the national level, given the limitations of international conventions and agreements. Nonetheless, every effort should be made to ensure that sound public engagement practices are applied when SG research governance is taken up by international institutions and that engagement activities are expanded when possible and appropriate. Most international institutions target particular stakeholder groups (e.g., Business and Industry, Children and Youth, or Farmers). Not all international institutions recognize all publics as relevant stakeholders. Some focus on certain communities rather than others, such as the special status afforded fishing constituencies in the relevant UN agreements on oceans. While this is appropriate in certain contexts (including this example), it is important that any international institution that engages in SG research governance examine the scope of its rules and policies on stakeholder engagement.
Mechanisms have evolved to help explain new and emerging technologies to broader audiences and gauge civic reactions to these technologies. In the field of synthetic biology, for example, NSF funded the Multi-Site Public Engagement with Science–Synthetic Biology project (MSPES), a 3-year effort dedicated to public outreach.“The core goal of MSPES was to promote meaningful conversations and interactions between scientists and public audiences through outreach events hosted by informal learning institutions nationwide, using synthetic biology as the science topic of interest” (Rockman et al, 2018). Similar engagement strategies have been used to evaluate the public’s response to and awareness of SG (Kaplan et al., 2019). Most of these exercises have focused on nationally homogeneous participant groups, but there is added value when participants interact with people from different countries (see Box 5.2).
Addressing Anticipatory International Governance
While this report focuses on recommendations for research governance, some field tests of proposed technology platforms could effectively be viewed as deployment or could incur transboundary effects that would likely be objectionable by some parties. It is also possible that certain SG technologies could be deployed unilaterally by states
26 Or, for example, under the auspices of the Escazú Agreement for Latin America and the Caribbean or the Aarhus Convention for Europe.
or non-state actors well before there is sufficient scientific understanding of the viability and risks of these technologies. Responsible governance is necessarily anticipatory (Guston, 2014), and, in the case of SG, it is appropriate to evaluate different future conditions under which field experiments with transboundary impacts or deployment might be actively contemplated by one or more parties.
Establishment of a high-level international committee charged by the UN Secretary General to assess hypothetical technologies is unlikely and perhaps imprudent. A group akin to the High-Level Panel of Imminent Persons that was enlisted by the Secretary General to write a report on options for the Sustainable Development Goals (prior to their negotiation in 2015), for example, seems inadvisable, as this could lead to overconfidence that some form of SG could resolve the climate crisis or raise fears of imminent deployment of a technology that some fear would exacerbate global inequality. At this stage, an advisory ad hoc committee on anticipatory governance seems more advisable, either composed of individual experts or sub-contracted to a collection of governmental and nongovernmental research institutions, and reporting to an appropriate international body.