Solar Radiation Management: Foresight for Governance (SRM4G) – Miranda Boettcher & Sean Low

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How are we to govern Solar Radiation Management (SRM) technologies?

This is far from a straightforward question. Who are “we” – scientists, national policymakers, the international community? Which specific SRM technology(s) are we referring to? Which phase of innovation is to be governed – laboratory research, field-tests, or large-scale deployment? What are the objectives of governance – to facilitate the coordination of SRM’s long-term objectives, to determine thresholds for field-tests, or to monitor, regulate, terminate and/or prevent deployment? What risks and uncertainties are we attempting to mitigate through governance?

SRM technologies have been receiving increasing attention from academics, the media, and policymakers due to their potential to lower global mean temperature swiftly and thus potentially lessen the damaging consequences of climate change. The debate has also revolved around the technologies’ potential environmental, societal and political side-effects. The inherently global nature of many SRM technologies means that questions about how to effectively govern them have been intrinsic to the debate from its outset. SRM governance mechanisms suggested range from self-governance by the scientific communities, to over leveraging national bodies of legislation on an ad-hoc basis, to governance by one or several international bodies, to all manner of hybrid systems. However, although a broad range of SRM governance proposals has been developed and published, as the technologies do not yet exist and capacities to model societal impacts are limited, these governance designs are each based on varied assumptions about complex future physical and societal developments. This makes the individual proposals difficult to compare and evaluate.

SRM4G is a 3-workshop project being conducted over the course of 2015 that seeks to develop a process for structuring future-oriented deliberations on SRM governance. The project will apply foresight methods to assess alternative climate response futures in order to anticipate various contexts for mechanisms to govern the development and deployment of SRM technologies. The project aims to initiate the construction of a common basis upon which different governance mechanisms can be discussed and evaluated. Questions to be addressed during the project include: How can the resilience of existing efforts in research governance be strengthened to account for a wide range of future contingencies? How can the largely imaginary nature of contingencies be accounted for in current research? How can these questions be investigated in a manner that is inclusive of a potentially wide range of stakeholders? The objective is to make explicit, based on as broad a participation from various stakeholders as possible, what different individuals and groups see as the most relevant challenges that arise with the emergence of SRM technologies onto scientific, political, and social agendas, and to identify advantages and drawbacks of different governance proposals against this background.

To this end, a number of SRM governance proposals will be tested against a range of “Climate Response in 2030” scenarios constructed by a multi-disciplinary group of participants consisting of a core group of 10-12 researchers from multiple disciplines, practitioners from policy and NGO backgrounds, and a revolving set of figures external to the SRM research community. This will not only help focus and structure thinking about the challenges of future SRM governance in the context of complex environments, but it will also actively facilitate interdisciplinary and trans-sector deliberation on the issue. By additionally evaluating the potential of such scenario-building exercises as a means of encouraging and facilitating stakeholder participation in deliberations on SRM governance, SRM4G aims not only to develop a strategic process for structuring policy deliberations in a future-oriented debate, but also to highlight the intellectual economy of stakeholders engaging in imagining tomorrows that influence actions today.

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Miranda Boettcher is currently completing her PhD in the field of International Climate Politics at the Heidelberg University, Germany. Her research focuses on the interplay of knowledge, language and power in national and international climate change politics.



Sean LowSean Low has been a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany since 2012. His research focuses on the uses and limits of scenario and gaming methods, as well as of analogies in previous debates on emerging technologies, to explore potential future contingencies in climate engineering. He has previously undertaken research on the politics of climate engineering and emerging economy agendas in global climate governance at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and the University of Waterloo.


SRM4G is coordinated by Johannes Gabriel, Sean Low, Miranda Boettcher and Stefan Schäfer, and is a collaborative effort between the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies and Foresight Intelligence.

For further information, please contact the project facilitators

The Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment does not necessarily endorse the ideas contained in this or any other guest post. Our aim is to provide a space for the expression of a range of perspectives on climate engineering.


  • Simon Pitt

    SRM is criminal. Chemtrails are hazardous to both humans and the environment. Today R.A.A.F DRGN15 A39-011 A332 engaged the people of Yamba Australia in an act of Soft Kill ( c

  • VeritasNonMutatio

    What a minute…is this a joke? “as the technologies do not yet exist and capacities to model societal impacts are limited, these governance designs are each based on varied assumptions about complex future physical and societal developments”…Are you saying technologies do not exist to MEASURE the impacts or PERFORM the SRM via high altitude aerosol spraying?
    We are experiencing SRM via high altitude aerosol spraying in our skies 23% of the days each year where I live the past 2 years…via DAILY observation and recording…that’s about 85 days a year our skies are streaked gray brown with chemical haze. I suppose I should thank you. If not, whom, exactly, should I thank? Please, tell me so I can contact them and effusively congratulate them for the desecrated skies, anxiety over what is being sprayed, depression over lack of information and what explanation to give to my young children who wonder “why are those planes spraying us mom?” We choose to believe our eyes and are well aware this technology exists.

    Or, are you instead saying the technologies to measure impacts do not exist? I’m guessing a large portion of this deployment is experimental in nature. After all, how can you measure impact unless you engage in the practice? And, I’m sure regardless of the impacts the results will be spun to provide the pre-approved outcome. I’m glad technocrats and scientists have decided that they can deploy these weapons over us for our own good.

    Listen, I’m a lay person. I’m exceedingly busy trying to raise a family, work, keep a home together and in general survive. So, please excuse any clumsiness with your terminology or lack or refinement in my handling of the discourse. The basic message, I hope, is not lost to you: this is a sick practice. I realize that you likely consider society in general too stupid to come to the “right” conclusion if this were to be revealed. Best to keep it quiet. But the problem is, people are waking up. We want ANSWERS. We want accountability and a VOICE on the subject.

    This war on climate change has humanity as collateral damage, but I’m sure in the religion is earth worship this is a justifiable cost. My question is, if this is so fantastic, and harmless why aren’t you all lining up to hold public press conferences letting us know how wonderful all of your efforts are to “save” us…I mean, we should be seeing this rolled out on CNN so we can all write letters thanking the proper people for their wisdom and kindness for saving us all.

    Do you know how much digging a lay person has to do to try to uncover what the hell is going on? Those of us who are aware we are being sprayed like cockroaches find this echo chamber of geo-babble funny if it weren’t terrifying. In a free society, people have a right to be informed about what their government has decided should be pumped into the air they breathe, their children inhale deeply as they run outside and the implications of this. They. Work. For. Us. I would imagine the funds being used are grifted from We The People’s taxation. But these are details…the people are just in the way here, I get it. This practice is cowardly. It’s a gross miscarriage of power. You want to talk about social justice? Global justice? What a joke. It causes anxiety and despair in the minds of every person I know who observes this SRM/High altitude spraying practice. We want to know: WHAT is being sprayed over us? Who is spraying us? What tax dollars are being spent to deploy likely toxins over the population and environment? What are the effects of this spraying on our health? Our soil, water, earth, etc…
    What gives a micro-group of society the right to highjack the SKIES!!! The atmosphere of the entire population??? I’m embarrassed and incredibly disheartened my country allows this without a robust citizen debate, without an explanation, without accountability to those who deem it so critical for our survival they would take risks with our health and environment to do this. What’s the end game? How long will technocrats steal our blue skies and sun while your academic debates self congratulate and reinforce each others world view?? I dare you to go on the news and announce to We The People what you have been doing. But you won’t. You never will.