More research on the risks and governance of geoengineering the planet's climate by reflecting sunlight into space is needed, a grouping of science bodies and a green NGO have said, as the end of the first week of UN climate talks nears.
Concern about such techniques is significant and so more dialogue and research is needed on the risks and benefits, said the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative, a coalition formed in March 2010 of the Royal Society, Italian-based academy of science for the developing world Twas, and US non-profit, the Environmental Defence Fund.
Various techniques for combating global warming by reducing the amount of the sun's energy reaching the earth have been proposed, from huge space reflectors in orbit to stratospheric aerosols released in the upper atmosphere. A UK-backed plan to test the mechanics of inserting such aerosols, using a hosepipe attached to a giant balloon, was postponed in September and the so-called Spice project was criticised by scientists writing in Nature earlier this month.
Steven Hamburg, the chief scientist for the Environmental Defence Fund and co-chair of the SRMGI, said: "Solar radiation management might sound, at first, like something from science fiction – but it's not. There are already serious discussions beginning about it, and that's why we felt it was urgent to create this governance initiative. Solar radiation management could be a Plan B to address climate change, but first we must figure out how to research it safely. Only then should we even consider any other steps."