1 June 2022
AGU press office:
Hope Garland, +1 (202) 777-7492, [email protected] (UTC-4 hours)
WASHINGTON—AGU, a global scientific society and the world’s largest for climate researchers, plans to lead the development of an ethical framework to guide the research and possible deployment of climate change intervention measures, as described in a whitepaper released today.
Climate change is a known global threat. As such, scientific and technology organizations and funders are increasingly devoting attention and resources to climate intervention research and, in some cases, already pursuing large-scale testing. Climate intervention measures include carbon removal and solar radiation management. The National Academy of Sciences and other authoritative bodies have called for “a code of conduct” and governance structure to guide the research, potential scaling and possible deployment of these intervention measures.
In alignment with AGU’s strategic plan and its policy on addressing climate change, AGU is convening an advisory board to work in partnership with other global organizations toward the development of this ethical framework. To start, AGU and members of this advisory board will foster conversations about the framework and its potential governance structure at international convenings, such as the upcoming United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27), which will be held in Egypt this November.
Appropriate decisions about the potential deployment of climate intervention technologies can only be made with better knowledge about the spectrum of approaches and their consequences. Carbon dioxide removal research is already being funded by governmental as well as private sector entities, as is research on solar radiation management, which has a number of known risks and ethical challenges.
“There is much urgency around this work,” said Susan Lozier, AGU president. “Unless meaningful measures to reduce and remove carbon dioxide are deployed, it appears likely that we will not meet the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050. At the same time, there is a keen awareness that practical and ethical questions need to be addressed before current technologies for the active removal of carbon dioxide are deployed and even more so before solar radiation management is attempted.”
“AGU is not taking a position about specific climate interventions,” said Randy W. Fiser, AGU’s chief executive officer and executive director. “Also, by no means should any proposed work in this area be undertaken as a substitute for aggressive actions on carbon dioxide emissions reduction. We are making the case that an ethical framework should be used as society weighs options for managing and responding to climate change.”
Past efforts to guide challenging science and technology research will inform the development of the climate intervention ethical and governance framework. “We will look at how the scientific community approached research around genetic engineering and human participation in health, medical, and social science research,” said Lozier. “Prior global gatherings, such as the 2010 Alisomar Conference on Climate Engineering, as well as lessons from biomedical research, have already established strong starting principles for this work.”
Read the full whitepaper on AGU Climate Intervention Engagement: Leading the Development of an Ethical Framework.
AGU (www.agu.org) supports 130,000 enthusiasts to experts worldwide in Earth and space sciences. Through broad and inclusive partnerships, we advance discovery and solution science that accelerate knowledge and create solutions that are ethical, unbiased and respectful of communities and their values. Our programs include serving as a scholarly publisher, convening virtual and in-person events and providing career support. We live our values in everything we do, such as our net zero energy renovated building in Washington, D.C. and our Ethics and Equity Center, which fosters a diverse and inclusive geoscience community to ensure responsible conduct.