New Papers Explore the Intersection of Social Sciences and Solar Geoengineering

The RFF Solar Geoengineering Project published four papers as part of a funding opportunity to bolster solar geoengineering social science research.


May 30, 2023

News Type

Press Release

💡 What’s the story? 

Today, the Resources for the Future (RFF) Solar Geoengineering Project published four papers as part of a funding opportunity to bolster solar geoengineering social science research. 

RFF awarded these grants to non-RFF scholars representing six countries and almost two dozen institutions. The analyses, which focus on how the theoretical global cooling policy may interact with public perception, international relations, and human mortality, are housed on RFF’s website as working papers. Four more papers written under this funding opportunity will be released later this summer.  

Expert Perspective

“Solar geoengineering is viewed as a potential last resort to address climate change. It is a pretty drastic response to consider injecting particles into the upper atmosphere to reduce the amount of sunlight warming the earth. But if reducing the emissions that cause climate change fails to address the worst impacts, it is hard to see how any option would be off the table. And if we don’t learn more about this now because it seems so drastic, where will we be if the worst outcomes do come to pass? It’s better to study solar geoengineering now rather than suddenly needing to make decisions about it and knowing very little later.”

—Billy Pizer, RFF Vice President for Research and Policy Engagement   

☀️ How did this project start?    

RFF has been active in the solar geoengineering research space, starting with a series of three expert workshops convened in 2020 under the SRM Trans-Atlantic Dialogue. An article in Science’s Policy Forum by RFF-affiliated researchers and other prominent scholars followed in 2021, which in turn sparked the RFF Solar Geoengineering Project’s request for paper proposals. In the Science article, the authors elaborated on the need for social science research to inform the understanding, application, and implications of solar geoengineering—a potential policy option that, in its most studied form, could slow the rate of warming or even cool the planet by changing the reflective capabilities of the stratosphere with aerosols or other materials. 

After projects were chosen in February 2022, the research teams met online in April 2022 and then at an in-person workshop in September 2022 to discuss and comment on preliminary findings and the broader context of their work. The paper authors are now in the process of submitting their articles to peer-reviewed journals.  

🏗️ Where do we go from here?  

This funding opportunity is just one part of RFF’s involvement with solar geoengineering-related research. RFF will continue to facilitate research and host workshops and events to provide opportunities for experts to share their thoughts on this emerging and contentious issue.  

On September 28 and 29, RFF will host a public workshop on future research directions. Watch this space over the next few months for more information.

Expert Perspective

“These papers represent just a small portion of the research that needs to go into better understanding the risks, benefits, and societal implications of potential solar geoengineering. This set of technologies is something that, if implemented, would affect every country on Earth. It is important that research on this issue grows, and at a timescale that benefits future decisionmakers.” 

—Tyler Felgenhauer, project member and Senior Research Scientist at Duke University 

📚 Where can I learn more?

You can learn more about the RFF Solar Geoengineering Project, and the funded papers, by visiting the topic page.  

Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Its mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may differ from those of other RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals.

For more information, please see our media resources page or contact Media Relations and Communications Specialist Annie McDarris.

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