Research programme to model impact of solar radiation management

Two women preparing concepts for climate protection at a desk.

A new £10.5m, five-year research programme will deliver independent risk-risk analyses to inform policymakers in the area of solar radiation management (SRM).

Falling short of global temperature targets

Current climate mitigation efforts are widely acknowledged to fall short of keeping global mean temperatures below the Paris Agreement of 1.5 to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the target to limit societal and ecological impacts.

In response, more extreme intervention ideas have proliferated but with varying levels of uncertainty around the impact these interventions, including SRM approaches, might have on Earth system responses.

There is now a need to consider the risks and potential detrimental impacts of implementation at scale of SRM approaches to control Earth system temperature.

These risks and impacts will be considered in the context of the detrimental impacts of Earth heating under climate change.

Modelling environmental responses to SRM

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Modelling Environmental Responses to Solar Radiation Management programme will invest £10.5 million over five years.

The research programme will deliver independent risk-risk analyses, which will provide evidence in the newly expanding SRM arena.

The programme will deliver cutting-edge environmental science via four themes, through modelling and laboratory work only. Outdoor deployments will not be supported.

The themes cover the breadth of potential SRM approaches and take learning from adjacent areas and existing data. They will cover:

  • better understanding of the climate impacts of stratospheric aerosol intervention
  • better understanding of the climate effects of marine cloud brightening
  • using natural analogues and mining of existing data to understand SRM
  • novel SRM techniques, such as understanding the climate impacts from (to date) lesser studied SRM techniques

NERC expect to release a funding opportunity for research in summer 2024.

Ethics and governance

It is recognised that SRM is considered to be controversial by some, and the programme will investigate this by including components on ethics and governance.

The public voice is also important and there will be opportunities for public dialogue and involvement within the programme so that this evidence is also included.

NERC’s investment in SRM modelling does not include deployment of SRM approaches and does not change our position on decarbonisation and working towards net zero.

Further information

This programme of independent research aligns with the government’s current position of not deploying SRM, but supporting research into the effects of SRM on climate and wider impacts.

This is distinct from the work of Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA). The NERC programme is focused on innovative climate modelling, while ARIA’s programme is focused on researching new and existing technologies for climate and weather management. The NERC programme has been developed independently of ARIA’s work in this space. However, NERC will continue to engage with ARIA and other government bodies as this work progresses, as is routine in applied research.

This research programme is funded through the NERC strategic research and innovation budget.

Top image:  Credit: golero, E+, via Getty Images

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