White House Report Suggests Willingness to Modify Sunlight for Climate Change Mitigation

A report released by the White House on Friday presents ideas for modifying solar radiation in space as a means to combat global warming, as mandated by Congress. The Office of Science and Technology Policy report emphasizes the growing clarity of the risks associated with inaction on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. In light of this urgency, the report suggests further research on solar radiation modification (SRM) to evaluate its effectiveness, trade-offs, and relevant considerations.

Scientists studying SRM suggest that it has the potential to significantly cool the planet within a few years, thereby mitigating the negative impacts of climate change. However, space interventions come with inherent risks. The Biden administration’s policies aim to transition the United States away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources in order to slow down global warming. SRM offers a potential avenue to reduce global temperatures.

The report details various “geoengineering” methods, including stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI), marine cloud brightening, and cirrus cloud thinning. The White House appears to favor atmospheric approaches over space-based ones due to the shorter timeframe involved. It is important to note that the report does not outline plans for a comprehensive research program solely focused on SRM.

The document acknowledges that while SRM could provide rapid cooling, it also carries unknown risks and side effects. It emphasizes the need for thorough research to assess the implications of SRM, such as impacts on human health, biodiversity, disruptions to weather patterns, and effects on food supplies.The report states that it does not indicate any new policy decisions on geoengineering but rather aims to initiate discussions and endorse well-governed research on solar modification. This demonstrates a measured approach by the Biden administration to prevent further politicization of climate change.

The release of this report has significant implications, as it could encourage international collaboration in research on solar radiation modification. The European Union has also expressed its willingness to engage in discussions on climate interventions, including SRM, and to support global efforts in assessing risks and uncertainties associated with these technologies.