Harvard Grants for Solar Geoengineering

The Keith Group is grateful to have been the lead recipient of three grants from internal Harvard programs over the past few months: The Star Family Challenge for Scientific Research, The Weatherhead Initiative Research Cluster in International Affairs, and The Harvard Climate Solutions Fund. We thank these generous programs for funding research on a variety of important topics related to solar geoengineering. Grants with a total value of 450 $k (without overhead) will enable researchers to address key scientific and governance questions surrounding solar geoengineering:

The Star Family Challenge for Scientific Research

The Star Family Challenge for Scientific Research has awarded 100 $k to the Keith Group to research the possibility of designing solid aerosol particles that could reduce the risks of stratospheric solar geoengineering. Up to now, researchers have often considered stratospheric sulfate aerosols in the context of solar geoengineering, largely because we can observe the effects of sulfate aerosols produced by large volcanic eruptions as a natural analogue to this type of solar geoengineering. However, stratospheric sulfate aerosols carry several undesired side-effects, including ozone loss and temperature changes in the stratosphere. This project will, through a combination of lab work and computer modeling, evaluate a range of new solid particles that could potentially offer the same cooling effect as sulfate aerosol geoengineering but with reduced side-effects.

The Weatherhead Initiative Research Cluster in International Affairs

Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs has awarded 250 $k to a group of researchers led by David Keith and Josh Horton to establish a Research Cluster focused on the economics and governance of solar geoengineering. This two-year grant will bring together early-career researchers and senior faculty to collaborate on answering key social scientific questions about solar geoengineering. Research topics will include optimizing solar geoengineering under uncertainty and as part of a broader climate policy portfolio, clubs as a potential governance model for solar geoengineering, strategic interaction and the effects of solar geoengineering on emissions reduction, and other areas. The Research Cluster will involve researchers from the Harvard Kennedy School and the Departments of Government and Economics, as well as a small number of contributors from outside Harvard.

The Harvard Climate Solutions Fund

The Harvard Climate Change Solutions Fund, a research fund which supports research into innovative approaches to addressing climate change, has awarded the Keith Group 100 $k to investigate the response of sea-level rise to solar geoengineering. Sea-level rise is driven by the thermal expansion of the oceans and the melting of glaciers and ice-sheets, so it seems reasonable to presume that less warming will reduce sea-level rise regardless of whether that is due to emissions cuts or solar geoengineering. However, solar geoengineering would also affect precipitation directly, which adds mass to glaciers and ice-sheets, and would change patterns of circulation, potentially bringing warmer air and water masses into contact with the ice-sheets and glaciers. This research project will evaluate the uncertainties in the response of sea-level rise to solar geoengineering and determine whether solar geoengineering could be optimized to more effectively reduce sea-level rise.