# Funding for Solar Geoengineering from 2008 to 2018

By Ella Necheles, Lizzie Burns, Amy Chang, and David Keith.

### Our Project

As the visibility of solar geoengineering research grows, we thought it would be useful to provide a publicly accessible record of the solar geoengineering projects that have been funded over the past ten years.

How one defines a solar geoengineering “project,” however, is not straightforward. With a diverse range of efforts having taken place, there are numerous approaches that one could take.

For our purposes, we used the following definition to focus our scope. We realize, however, that this does not encompass every solar geoengineering effort that has been undertaken to date. Furthermore, we recognize that many solar geoengineering efforts have not even been funded, but rather have been conducted voluntarily. As one researcher explained: “Nobody supports me for GeoMIP. I do all of that on nights and weekends.”

Therefore, while the criteria below provided a scope for our project, it did not capture every effort that has been dedicated to solar geoengineering to date. For our project:

### Highlights

Several interesting patterns emerged from this data set. However, given the data set’s small size and incomplete nature (including the missing volunteer work), we do not believe these patterns represent a thorough analysis of the trends in solar geoengineering research and advocacy. We merely highlight them below in case they prove useful.

Overall, the total amount of global funding supporting solar geoengineering research and advocacy has been rather minimal, particularly when compared to the total amount of funding that has supported other climate related research and advocacy efforts since 2008. That said, solar geoengineering funding has increased gradually over the last decade (except for 2015 and 2016, when there was a slight decline). For example, in 2008, there was a little more than $1 million in solar geoengineering funding, and in 2018 there was a little more than$8 million in funding.

Looking closer at the geographic distribution, the US, UK, and Germany have hosted the majority of solar geoengineering projects over the past decade. In Germany, funding has supported numerous projects since 2012 and 2013, and that funding has stayed rather constant over time; in the US, there has been a gradual increase in funding from 2008 to 2016, and then a spike in 2016 (largely due to Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program and the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative); and in the UK, we see an opposite trend, where there was some funding towards the beginning to middle of the period in question, but then a decline in recent years.

Various other countries, such as China and Japan, also host large geoengineering projects. Still, there are regions that have had little to no engagement in solar geoengineering research or advocacy. For example, South America and Africa both lack countries with significant solar geoengineering programs. Considering the large impacts that solar geoengineering could have on regions within these continents (both in terms of benefits and risks), it is essential that these regions are engaged moving forward. The DECIMALS Fund was launched in 2018 to serve this purpose, and aims to fund 7-8 projects in developing nations through 2020.

In addition to geographic trends, we also analyzed the funding sources. Over the decade in question, government funding swelled (reaching its peak in 2014) before decreasing. Private funding remained constant before increasing in 2016 (again, largely due to Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program and the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative). And mixed sources funding (public and private) remained such a small percentage of overall funds that its pattern is difficult to trace.

When we looked closer at funding sources by location, we noticed several differences. In Europe and Asia, the government provided the majority of funding, while in the US, the philanthropic sector provided a greater amount of funding. The following table shows the approximate funding amounts by location and funding type between 2008 and 2018:

Lastly, over the last ten years, funding support for interdisciplinary projects (focusing on both natural and social sciences) has increased rather steadily over the decade. Likewise, funding support for purely social science work has increased over time, except for 2015 and 2016, when it experienced a decline. In comparison, funding support for purely natural science research has gradually increased and then decreased over time.

### Thank You

We would like to thank the many individuals who shared information about their projects. If you notice any errors or omissions, please email Selena Wallace (swallace [at] seas.harvard.edu).

Ella Necheles is a sophomore at Harvard College. Lizzie Burns is the Program Director for Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program. Amy Chang is the Coordinator for Environmental Research at Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program. David Keith is the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

This post was updated on August 11, 2019 to reflect new information learned.