, Volume 121, Issue 3, pp 431-444,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 17 May 2012

Climate policy under uncertainty: a case for solar geoengineering

Abstract

Solar Radiation Management (SRM) has two characteristics that make it useful for managing climate risk: it is quick and it is cheap. SRM cannot, however, perfectly offset CO2-driven climate change, and its use introduces novel climate and environmental risks. We introduce SRM in a simple economic model of climate change that is designed to explore the interaction between uncertainty in the climate’s response to CO2 and the risks of SRM in the face of carbon-cycle inertia. The fact that SRM can be implemented quickly, reducing the effects of inertia, makes it a valuable tool to manage climate risks even if it is relatively ineffective at compensating for CO2-driven climate change or if its costs are large compared to traditional abatement strategies. Uncertainty about SRM is high, and decision makers must decide whether or not to commit to research that might reduce this uncertainty. We find that even modest reductions in uncertainty about the side-effects of SRM can reduce the overall costs of climate change in the order of 10%.