White House Contemplates Geoengineering to Fight Climate Change

In a recent publication on the official White House website, the Biden administration revealed its openness to studying potential methods of blocking sunlight as part of an effort to address climate change. The research document, titled “Congressionally-Mandated Report on Solar Radiation Modification,” was released by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy last Friday.

The report highlights that the administration’s research focuses on the field of geoengineering, which involves deliberate large-scale interventions in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change. Specifically, the document mentions two methods of geoengineering under consideration: stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) and marine cloud brightening. Additionally, there is ongoing research on cirrus cloud thinning.

Although the report acknowledges that research into “space-based approaches” has not been a priority, it emphasizes the relative near-term feasibility of atmospheric approaches. The document clarifies that the research plan primarily aims to enhance understanding of the potential impacts of solar radiation modification (SRM) rather than developing deployment technologies. It further states that this research would contribute to our understanding of climate processes, the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, and the outcomes of SRM.

The research document explicitly states that no government policy is attached to it at this stage, as it serves as a means to improve understanding rather than establish concrete actions. The report underscores the need for a program of research to investigate the scientific and societal implications of SRM, enabling informed decision-making regarding its potential risks and benefits as a component of climate policy.

Furthermore, the document acknowledges that such a research program could pave the way for future government or corporate initiatives in this field, while also preparing the United States for potential SRM deployment by other actors, whether public or private.

In a separate statement, the White House clarified that there are currently no plans to establish a comprehensive research program specifically focused on solar radiation modification.

The report also highlights that SRM offers the possibility of significantly cooling the planet within a few years. However, it is important to note that the document does not propose any concrete actions or policy implementations.

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