Harvard's Solar Geoengineering Research Program seeks to advance natural and social science research on solar geoengineering. The following academic and non-technical publications highlight some of the latest findings.

Academic Publications

Felgenhauer, Tyler, Joshua Horton, and David Keith. “Solar geoengineering research on the U.S. policy agenda: when might its time come?Environmental Politics (2021): 1–21. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Solar geoengineering (SG) may be a helpful tool to reduce harms from climate change, yet further research into its potential benefits and risks must occur prior to any implementation. So far, however, organized research on SG has been absent from the U.S. national policy agenda. We apply the Multiple Streams Approach analytical framework to explain why a U.S. federal SG research program has failed to materialize up to now, and to consider how one might emerge in the future. We argue that establishing a federal program will require the formation of an advocacy coalition within the political arena that is prepared to support such a policy objective. A coalition favoring federal research on SG does not presently exist, yet the potential nucleus of a future political grouping is evident in the handful of ‘pragmatist’ environmental organizations that have expressed conditional support for expanded research.
Fan, Yuanchao, Jerry Tjiputra, Helene Muri, Danica Lombardozzi, Chang-Eui Park, Shengjun Wu, and David Keith. “Solar geoengineering can alleviate climate change pressures on crop yields.” Nature Food 2, no. 5 (2021): 373-381. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Solar geoengineering (SG) and CO2 emissions reduction can each alleviate anthropogenic climate change, but their impacts on food security are not yet fully understood. Using an advanced crop model within an Earth system model, we analysed the yield responses of six major crops to three SG technologies (SGs) and emissions reduction when they provide roughly the same reduction in radiative forcing and assume the same land use. We found sharply distinct yield responses to changes in radiation, moisture and CO2, but comparable significant cooling benefits for crop yields by all four methods. Overall, global yields increase ~10% under the three SGs and decrease 5% under emissions reduction, the latter primarily due to reduced CO2 fertilization, relative to business as usual by the late twenty-first century. Relative humidity dominates the hydrological effect on yields of rainfed crops, with little contribution from precipitation. The net insolation effect is negligible across all SGs, contrary to previous findings.
Irvine, Peter, Elizabeth Burns, Ken Caldeira, Frank Keutsch, Dustin Tingley, and David Keith. “Expert judgments on solar geoengineering research priorities and challenges.” EarthArXiv (2021). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Solar geoengineering describes a set of proposals to deliberately alter the earth’s radiative balance to reduce climate risks. We elicit judgements on natural science research priorities for solar geoengineering through a survey and in-person discussion with 72 subject matter experts, including two thirds of all scientists with ≥10 publications on the topic. Experts prioritized Earth system response (33%) and impacts on society and ecosystems (27%) over the human and social dimensions (17%) and developing or improving solar geoengineering methods (15%), with most allocating no effort to weather control or counter-geoengineering. While almost all funding to date has focused on geophysical modeling and social sciences, our experts recommended substantial funding for observations (26%), perturbative field experiments (16%), laboratory research (11%) and engineering for deployment (11%). Of the specific proposals, stratospheric aerosols received the highest average priority (34%) then marine cloud brightening (17%) and cirrus cloud thinning (10%). The views of experts with ≥10 publications were generally consistent with experts with <10 publications, though when asked to choose the radiative forcing for their ideal climate scenario only 40% included solar geoengineering compared to 70% of experts with <10 publications. This suggests that those who have done more solar geoengineering research are less supportive of its use in climate policy. We summarize specific research recommendations and challenges that our experts identified, the most salient of which were fundamental uncertainties around key climate processes, novel challenges related to solar geoengineering as a design problem, and the challenges of public and policymaker engagement.
Dai, Zhen, Elizabeth Burns, Peter Irvine, Dustin Tingley, Jianhua Xu, and David Keith. “Elicitation of US and Chinese expert judgments show consistent views on solar geoengineering.” Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 8, no. 1 (2021). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Expert judgments on solar geoengineering (SG) inform policy decisions and influence public opinions. We performed face-to-face interviews using formal expert elicitation methods with 13 US and 13 Chinese climate experts randomly selected from IPCC authors or supplemented by snowball sampling. We compare their judgments on climate change, SG research, governance, and deployment. In contrast to existing literature that often stress factors that might differentiate China from western democracies on SG, we found few significant differences between quantitative judgments of US and Chinese experts. US and Chinese experts differed on topics, such as desired climate scenario and the preferred venue for international regulation of SG, providing some insight into divergent judgments that might shape future negotiations about SG policy. We also gathered closed-form survey results from 19 experts with >10 publications on SG. Both expert groups supported greatly increased research, recommending SG research funding of ~5% on average (10th–90th percentile range was 1–10%) of climate science budgets compared to actual budgets of <0.3% in 2018. Climate experts chose far less SG deployment in future climate policies than did SG experts.

Non-Technical Publications

Burns, Lizzie, David Keith, Peter Irvine, and Joshua Horton. “Belfer Technology Factsheet Series: Solar Geoengineering” (2019).Abstract
Solar geoengineering refers to a set of emerging technologies that could alter the Earth’s radiative balance— perhaps through injecting aerosols into the stratosphere, where they would reflect a small fraction of sunlight back into space—reducing the amount of climate change caused by greenhouse gases. It could not replace reducing emissions (mitigation), coping with a changing climate (adaptation), or carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Yet it does have the potential to supplement these efforts, and it might provide reductions in climate risk that are unachievable by other means.