This group is a fast-growing team of researchers working at the intersection of climate science and technology with a focus on the science and public policy of solar geoengineering under the leadership of David Keith, Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

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Featured Publications

Expert judgments on solar geoengineering research priorities and challenges

Peter Irvine, Elizabeth Burns, Ken Caldeira, Frank Keutsch, Dustin Tingley, and David Keith. 2021. “Expert judgments on solar geoengineering research priorities and challenges.” EarthArXiv. 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.
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Aerosol Dynamics in the Near Field of the SCoPEx Stratospheric Balloon Experiment

C. M. Golja, L. W. Chew, J. A. Dykema, and D. W. Keith. 2021. “Aerosol Dynamics in the Near Field of the SCoPEx Stratospheric Balloon Experiment.” Journal of Geophysical Research. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) might alleviate some climate risks associated with accumulating greenhouse gases. Reduction of specific process uncertainties relevant to the distribution of aerosol in a turbulent stratospheric wake is necessary to support informed decisions about aircraft deployment of this technology. To predict aerosol size distributions we apply microphysical parameterizations of nucleation, condensation and coagulation to simulate an aerosol plume generated via injection of calcite powder or sulphate into a stratospheric wake with velocity and turbulence simulated by a three‐dimensional (3D) fluid dynamic calculation. We apply the model to predict the aerosol distribution that would be generated by a propeller wake in the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx). We find that injecting 0.1 g s‐1 calcite aerosol produces a nearly monodisperse plume and that at the same injection rate, condensable sulphate aerosol forms particles with average radii of 0.1 µm at 3 km downstream. We test the sensitivity of plume aerosol composition, size, and optical depth to the mass injection rate and injection location. Aerosol size distribution depends more strongly on injection rate than injection configuration. Comparing plume properties with specifications of a typical photometer, we find that plumes could be detected optically as the payload flies under the plume. These findings test the relevance of in situ sampling of aerosol properties by the SCoPEx outdoor experiment to enable quantitative tests of microphysics in a stratospheric plume. Our findings provide a basis for developing predictive models of SAI using aerosols formed in stratospheric aircraft wakes.
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Elicitation of US and Chinese expert judgments show consistent views on solar geoengineering

Zhen Dai, Elizabeth T. Burns, Peter J. Irvine, Dustin H. Tingley, Jianhua Xu, and David W. Keith. 2021. “Elicitation of US and Chinese expert judgments show consistent views on solar geoengineering.” Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8, 1. 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.
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Harvard's Solar Geoengineering Research Program

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About David Keith

David Keith has worked near the interface between climate science, energy technology, and public policy for twenty five years. He took first prize in Canada's national physics prize exam, won MIT's prize for excellence in experimental physics, and was one of TIME magazine's Heroes of the Environment 2009.

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