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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2015. Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18988.
×

CLIMATE
INTERVENTION

Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth

Committee on Geoengineering Climate:
Technical Evaluation and Discussion of Impacts

Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate

Ocean Studies Board

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
                          OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.

www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2015. Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18988.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS    •    500 Fifth Street, NW    •    Washington, DC 20001

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This study was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract Number DE-SC0011701, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under Contract Number NNX13A041G, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under Contract Number WC133R-11-CQ-0048, the National Academy of Sciences’ Arthur L. Day Fund, and the intelligence community. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring agencies or any of their subagencies.

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-31482-4
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-31482-8
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015938939

Additional copies of this report are available for sale from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu/.

Copyright 2015 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Cover photo credits: Fotolia and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2015. Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18988.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2015. Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18988.
×

COMMITTEE ON GEOENGINEERING CLIMATE: TECHNICAL
EVALUATION AND DISCUSSION OF IMPACTS

MARCIA K. MCNUTT (Chair), Science, Washington, DC

WALEED ABDALATI, University of Colorado, Boulder

KEN CALDEIRA, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, California

SCOTT C. DONEY, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts

PAUL G. FALKOWSKI, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick

STEVE FETTER, University of Maryland, College Park

JAMES R. FLEMING, Colby College, Waterville, Maine

STEVEN P. HAMBURG, Environmental Defense Fund, Boston, Massachusetts

M. GRANGER MORGAN, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

JOYCE E. PENNER, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

RAYMOND T. PIERREHUMBERT, University of Chicago, Illinois

PHILIP J. RASCH, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington

LYNN M. RUSSELL, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

JOHN T. SNOW, University of Oklahoma, Norman

DAVID W. TITLEY, Pennsylvania State University, University Park

JENNIFER WILCOX, Stanford University, California

NRC Staff

EDWARD DUNLEA, Senior Program Officer

CLAUDIA MENGELT, Senior Program Officer

KATHERINE THOMAS, Program Officer

AMANDA PURCELL, Research Associate

SHELLY FREELAND, Senior Program Assistant

ROB GREENWAY, Program Associate

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2015. Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18988.
×

BOARD ON ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES AND CLIMATE

A.R. RAVISHANKARA (Chair), Colorado State University, Fort Collins

GERALD A. MEEHL (Vice Chair), National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

LANCE F. BOSART, State University of New York, Albany

MARK A. CANE, Columbia University, Palisades, New York

SHUYI S. CHEN, University of Miami, Florida

HEIDI CULLEN, Climate Central, Princeton, New Jersey

PAMELA EMCH, Northrup Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, California

ARLENE FIORE, Columbia University, Palisades, New York

WILLIAM B. GAIL, Global Weather Corporation, Boulder, Colorado

LISA GODDARD, Columbia University, Palisades, New York

MAURA HAGAN, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

TERRI S. HOGUE, Colorado School of Mines, Golden

ANTHONY JANETOS, Joint Global Change Research Institute, College Park, Maryland

EVERETTE JOSEPH, SUNY University at Albany, New York

RONALD “NICK” KEENER, JR., Duke Energy Corporation, Charlotte, North Carolina

JOHN R. NORDGREN, The Kresge Foundation, Troy, Michigan

JONATHAN OVERPECK, University of Arizona, Tucson

STEPHEN W. PACALA, Princeton University, New Jersey

ARISTIDES A.N. PATRINOS, New York University, Brooklyn

S.T. RAO, North Carolina State University, Raleigh

DAVID A. ROBINSON, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway

CLAUDIA TEBALDI, Climate Central, Princeton, New Jersey

Ocean Studies Board Liaison

DAVID HALPERN, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Polar Research Board Liaison

JENNIFER FRANCIS, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Marion, Massachusetts

NRC Staff

AMANDA STAUDT, Director

EDWARD DUNLEA, Senior Program Officer

LAURIE GELLER, Senior Program Officer

KATHERINE THOMAS, Program Officer

LAUREN EVERETT, Associate Program Officer

AMANDA PURCELL, Research and Financial Associate

RITA GASKINS, Administrative Coordinator

SHELLY FREELAND, Administrative and Financial Assistant

ROB GREENWAY, Program Associate

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2015. Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18988.
×

OCEAN STUDIES BOARD

ROBERT A. DUCE (Chair), Texas A&M University, College Station

E. VIRGINIA ARMBRUST, University of Washington, Seattle

KEVIN R. ARRIGO, Stanford University, California

CLAUDIA BENETIZ-NELSON, University of South Carolina, Columbia

EDWARD A. BOYLE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

RITA R. COLWELL, University of Maryland, College Park

SARAH W. COOKSEY, State of Delaware, Dover

CORTIS K. COOPER, Chevron Corporation, San Ramon, California

ROBERT HALLBERG, NOAA/GFDL and Princeton University, New Jersey

DAVID HALPERN, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

SUSAN E. HUMPHRIS, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts

BONNIE J. MCCAY, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

STEVEN A. MURAWSKI, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

JOHN A. ORCUTT, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

H. TUBA ÖZKAN-HALLER, Oregon State University, Corvallis

STEVEN E. RAMBERG, Penn State Applied Research Lab, Washington, DC

MARTIN D. SMITH, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

MARGARET SPRING, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California

DON WALSH, International Maritime Incorporated, Myrtle Point, Oregon

DOUGLAS WARTZOK, Florida International University, Miami

LISA D. WHITE, University of California, Berkeley, and San Francisco State University

Ex-Officio

MARY (MISSY) H. FEELEY, ExxonMobil Exploration Company (retired), Houston, Texas

NRC Staff

SUSAN ROBERTS, Board Director

DEBORAH GLICKSON, Senior Program Officer

CLAUDIA MENGELT, Senior Program Officer

STACEE KARRAS, Research Associate

PAMELA LEWIS, Administrative Coordinator

SHUBHA BANSKOTA, Financial Associate

PAYTON KULINA, Senior Program Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2015. Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18988.
×

Preface

The signs of a warming planet are all around us—rising seas, melting ice sheets, record-setting temperatures—with impacts cascading to ecosystems, humans, and our economy. At the root of the problem, anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere continue to increase, a substantial fraction of which diffuse into the ocean, causing ocean acidification and threatening marine ecosystems. Global climate is changing faster than at any time since the rise of human civilization, challenging society to adapt to those changes. If the current dependence on fossil fuel use continues, evidence from previous periods of high atmospheric GHG concentrations indicates that our release of fossil fuel carbon into Earth’s atmosphere in the form of CO2 will be recorded in the rock record as a major planet-wide event, marked by transgressions of shorelines, extinctions of biota, and perturbations of major biogeochemical cycles.

The specific topic of this report, “climate geoengineering,” was often framed in terms of a last-ditch response option to climate change if climate change damage should produce extreme hardship. Such deliberate intervention in the climate system was often considered a taboo subject. Although the likelihood of eventually considering last-ditch efforts to address damage from climate change grows with every year of inaction on emissions control, there remains a lack of information on these ways of potentially intervening in the climate system. In 2012 the U.S. government, including several of the science agencies, asked the National Academy of Sciences to provide advice on this subject. The National Research Council (NRC) committee assembled in response to this request realized that carbon dioxide removal and albedo modification (i.e., modification of the fraction of short-wavelength solar radiation reflected from Earth back into space) have traditionally been lumped together under the term “geoengineering” but are sufficiently different that they deserved to be discussed in separate volumes.

Carbon dioxide removal strategies, discussed in the first volume, are generally of lower risk and of almost certain benefit given what is currently known of likely global emissions trajectories and the climate change future. Currently, cost and lack of technical maturity are factors limiting the deployment of carbon dioxide removal strategies for helping to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. In the future, such strategies could, however, contribute as part of a portfolio of responses for mitigating climate warming and ocean acidification. In the meantime, natural air CO2 removal processes (sinks) con-

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2015. Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18988.
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sume the equivalent of over half of our emissions, a feature that might be safely and cost-effectively enhanced or augmented as explored in the first volume.

In contrast, albedo modification approaches show some evidence of being effective at temporarily cooling the planet, but at a currently unknown environmental price. The committee is concerned that understanding of the ethical, political, and environmental consequences of an albedo modification action is relatively less advanced than the technical capacity to execute it. In fact, one serious concern is that such an action could be unilaterally undertaken by a nation or smaller entity for their own benefit without international sanction and regardless of international consequences. A research basis is currently lacking to understand more about the potential results and impacts of albedo modification to help inform such decisions. These approaches are discussed in the second volume.

The committee’s very different posture concerning the currently known risks of carbon dioxide removal as compared with albedo modification was a primary motivation for separating these climate engineering topics into two separate volumes.

Terminology is very important in discussing these topics. “Geoengineering” is associated with a broad range of activities beyond climate (e.g., geological engineering), and even “climate engineering” implies a greater level of precision and control than might be possible. The committee concluded that “climate intervention,” with its connotation of “an action intended to improve a situation,” most accurately describes the strategies covered in these two volumes. Furthermore, the committee chose to avoid the commonly used term of “solar radiation management” in favor of the more physically descriptive term “albedo modification” to describe a subset of such techniques that seek to enhance the reflectivity of the planet to cool the global temperature. Other related methods that modify the emission of infrared energy to space to cool the planet are also discussed in the second volume.

Transparency in discussing this subject is critical. In that spirit of transparency, this study was based on peer-reviewed literature and the judgments of the committee members involved; no new research was done as part of this study and all data and information used in this study are from entirely open sources. Moving forward, the committee hopes that these two new reports will help foster an ethos in which all research in this area is conducted openly, responsibly, and with transparent goals and results.

It is the committee’s sincere hope that these topics will receive the attention and investment commensurate with their importance to addressing the coming potential climate crises. By helping to bring light to this topic area, carbon dioxide removal tech-

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2015. Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18988.
×

nologies could become one more viable strategy for addressing climate change, and leaders will be far more knowledgeable about the consequences of albedo modification approaches before they face a decision whether or not to use them.

In closing, I would like to thank my fellow committee members for all of their hard work to summarize the existing, fragmented science and to work toward consensus on extremely complex issues. As well, we greatly appreciate all of the time and effort volunteered by our colleagues who generously gave their time and talent to review these reports, speak at our committee meetings, and communicate with us during the study process. We would also like to thank the NRC staff for their superb efforts to assemble and make sense of the many moving parts of two separate reports.

Marcia McNutt, Chair
Committee on Geoengineering Climate:
Technical Evaluation and Discussion of Impacts

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2015. Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18988.
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Acknowledgments

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. The committee wishes to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

DAVID VICTOR, University of California, San Diego

CLAIRE PARKINSON, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

ALAN ROBOCK, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

CLIVE HAMILTON, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Canberra, Australia

ROBERT WOOD, University of Washington, Seattle

TRUDE STORELVMO, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

EDWARD PARSON, University of California, Los Angeles

DAVID KEITH, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

MICHAEL HANEMANN, University of California, Berkeley

JAMES ANDERSON, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Although the reviewers listed above have provided constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the views of the committee, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Warren M. Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, and James W. C. White, University of Colorado, Boulder; appointed by the NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring panel and the institution.

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Albedo Modification Strategies

Climate Intervention by Stratospheric Aerosol Albedo Modification (SAAM)

Basic Physics, Chemistry, and the Life Cycle of Stratospheric Aerosols

Observations and Field Experiments of Relevance to SAAM

Proposed Mechanisms for SAAM

Model Estimates of Aerosol Forcing from SAAM

Modeled Climate System Responses to SAAM

Observational Requirements for SAAM

Environmental Consequences of SAAM

Technical Feasibility of SAAM

Costs

Unresolved or Less Tangible Issues for SAAM

Summary and Statement of Research Needs for SAAM

Albedo Modification by Marine Cloud Brightening

Science Underlying the Marine Cloud-Brightening Concept

Observations of Marine Cloud Brightening

Proposed Mechanisms for Marine Cloud Brightening

Challenges in the Implementation of Marine Cloud Brightening

Modeled Climate System Responses to Marine Cloud Brightening

Observational Requirements for Characterizing Marine Cloud Brightening

Environmental Consequences of Marine Cloud Brightening

Technical Feasibility of Marine Cloud Brightening

Summary and Statement of Research Needs for Marine Cloud Brightening

Other Methods

Space-Based Methods

Surface Albedo

Cirrus Cloud Modification

Observational Issues for Albedo Modification

Satellite Monitoring of Large-Scale Direct Effects of Albedo Modification

Satellite Monitoring of Large-Scale Indirect Effects of Albedo Modification

In Situ Process Observations

Detecting a Unilateral and Uncoordinated Deployment

Current Observational Capabilities and Needs for Future Continuity of Observations

Benefits of Multiple-Use Observational Capability

Summary and Research Needs for Albedo Modification

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The growing problem of changing environmental conditions caused by climate destabilization is well recognized as one of the defining issues of our time. The root problem is greenhouse gas emissions, and the fundamental solution is curbing those emissions. Climate geoengineering has often been considered to be a "last-ditch" response to climate change, to be used only if climate change damage should produce extreme hardship. Although the likelihood of eventually needing to resort to these efforts grows with every year of inaction on emissions control, there is a lack of information on these ways of potentially intervening in the climate system.

As one of a two-book report, this volume of Climate Intervention discusses albedo modification - changing the fraction of incoming solar radiation that reaches the surface. This approach would deliberately modify the energy budget of Earth to produce a cooling designed to compensate for some of the effects of warming associated with greenhouse gas increases. The prospect of large-scale albedo modification raises political and governance issues at national and global levels, as well as ethical concerns. Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth discusses some of the social, political, and legal issues surrounding these proposed techniques.

It is far easier to modify Earth's albedo than to determine whether it should be done or what the consequences might be of such an action. One serious concern is that such an action could be unilaterally undertaken by a small nation or smaller entity for its own benefit without international sanction and regardless of international consequences. Transparency in discussing this subject is critical. In the spirit of that transparency, Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth was based on peer-reviewed literature and the judgments of the authoring committee; no new research was done as part of this study and all data and information used are from entirely open sources. By helping to bring light to this topic area, this book will help leaders to be far more knowledgeable about the consequences of albedo modification approaches before they face a decision whether or not to use them.

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