Current Climate Change Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 41–50 | Cite as

The Effects of Solar Radiation Management on the Carbon Cycle

  • Long CaoEmail author
Carbon Cycle and Climate (K Zickfeld, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Carbon Cycle and Climate


Purpose of Review

Review existing studies on the carbon cycle impact of different solar geoengineering schemes.

Recent Findings

The effect of solar geoengineering on terrestrial primary productivity is typically much smaller than that of CO2 fertilization. Changes in the partitioning between direct and diffuse radiation in response to stratospheric aerosol injection could substantially alter modeled plant productivity. Inclusion of the nitrogen cycle would further modify the terrestrial response to solar geoengineering. Relative to a high-CO2 world, solar geoengineering, via cooling the surface ocean, would increase CO2 solubility, enhancing oceanic CO2 uptake. However, the effect from geoengineering-induced changes in ocean circulation and marine biology would be more complicated. Solar geoengineering would have a small effect on surface ocean acidification, but could accelerate acidification in the deep ocean. Solar geoengineering would reduce atmospheric CO2, but the relative contribution from the ocean sink and land sink is uncertain.


To date, there are only a few studies on the carbon cycle response to solar geoengineering. Coordinated geoengineering model intercomparison studies are needed to gain a better understanding of the carbon cycle impact of solar geoengineering and feedback on climate change.


Solar geoengineering Global carbon cycle Carbon-climate feedback Ocean acidification Primary production Climate change 



This work is supported by National Key Basic Research Program of China (2015CB953601), National Natural Science Foundation of China (41675063; 41422503; 41276073), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities. I would like to thank Jiujiang for her contribution in making Figs. 1 and Fig. 2.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author states that he has no financial or personal relationships with any third party whose interests could be positively or negatively influenced by the article’s content.


  1. 1.
    Le Quéré CL, et al. Global carbon budget 2016. Earth Syst Sci Data. 2016;8(2):605–49. Scholar
  2. 2.
    IPCC, Summary for policymakers. In: Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013; Stocker TF, Qin D, Plattner GK, Tignor M, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V and Midgley PM (eds.). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Archer D, Eby M, Brovkin V, Ridgwell A, Cao L, Mikolajewicz U, et al. Atmospheric lifetime of fossil fuel carbon dioxide. Annu Rev Earth Planet Sci. 2009;37(1):117–34.
  4. 4.
    Frölicher TL, Winton M, Sarmiento JL. Continued global warming after CO2 emissions stoppage. Nat Clim Chang. 2014;4:40–4. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Solomon S, Plattner GK, Knutti R, Friedlingstein P. Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009;106(6):1704–9. Scholar
  6. 6.
    IPCC, Summary for policymakers. In: Climate change 2014: mitigation of climate change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014; Edenhofer O, Pichs-Madruga R, Sokona Y, Farahani E, Kadner S, Seyboth K, Adler A, Baum I, Brunner S, Eickemeier P, Kriemann B, Savolainen J, Schlömer S, von Stechow C, Zwickel T and Minx JC (eds.). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    National Research Council. Climate intervention: reflecting sunlight to cool earth. Washington: National Academies Press; 2015. p. 234.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Budyko MI. Climate and life. New York: Academic Press; 1974.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Crutzen PJ. Albedo enhancement by stratospheric sulfur injections: a contribution to resolve a policy dilemma? Clim Chang. 2006;77(3–4):211–9. Scholar
  10. 10.
    Latham J. Control of global warming. Nature. 1990;347(6291):339–40. Scholar
  11. 11.
    Latham J. Amelioration of global warming by controlled enhancement of the albedo and longevity of low-level maritime clouds. Atmos Sci Lett. 2002;3(2-4):52–8. Scholar
  12. 12.
    Early JT. Space-based solar shield to offset greenhouse effect. J Br Interplanet Soc. 1989;42:567–9.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Gaskill A. Summary of meeting with US DOE to discuss geoengineering options to prevent long-term climate change. Environ. Ref. Mater., Inc., Research Triangle Park, N. C. 2014Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Seitz R. Bright water: hydrosols, water conservation and climate change. Clim Chang. 2011;105(3-4):365–81. Scholar
  15. 15.
    Mitchell DL, Finnegan W. Modification of cirrus clouds to reduce global warming. Environ Res Lett. 2009;4(4):045102. Scholar
  16. 16.
    Caldeira K, Bala G. Reflecting on 50 years of geoengineering research. Earth’s Future. 2016;4(1):10–7. Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kravitz B, Robock A, Boucher O, Schmidt H, Taylor KE, Stenchikov G, et al. The Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP). Atmos Sci Lett. 2011;12:162–7.
  18. 18.
    Kravitz B, Caldeira K, Boucher O, Robock A, Rasch PJ, Alterskjaer K, et al. Climate model response from the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP). J Geophys Res Atmos. 2013;118(15):8320–32.
  19. 19.
    Kravitz B, Robock A, Tilmes S, Boucher O, English JM, Irvine PJ, et al. The Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (GeoMIP6): simulation design and preliminary results. Geosci Model Dev. 2015;8(10):3379–92.
  20. 20.
    Ciais P et al. Carbon and other biogeochemical cycles. In: Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2013 Stocker TF, Qin D, Plattner GK, Tignor M, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V and Midgley PM (eds.). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Cao L, Duan L, Bala G, Caldeira K. Simulated long-term climate response to idealized solar geoengineering. Geophys Res Lett. 2016;43(5):2209–17. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Hong Y, Moore JC, Jevrejeva S, Ji D, Phipps SJ, Lenton A, et al. Impact of the GeoMIP G1 sunshade geoengineering experiment on the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. Environ Res Lett. 2017;12(3):034009.
  23. 23.
    Moore JC, Rinke A, Yu X, Ji D, Cui X, Li Y, et al. Arctic sea ice and atmospheric circulation under the GeoMIP G1 scenario. J Geophys Res. 2014;119(2):567–83.
  24. 24.
    Hardman-Mountford NJ, Polimene L, Hirata T, Brewin RJW, Aiken J. Impacts of light shading and nutrient enrichment geo-engineering approaches on the productivity of a stratified, oligotrophic ocean ecosystem. J R Soc Interface. 2013;10(9):608. Scholar
  25. 25.
    Matthews HD, Caldeira K. Transient climate-carbon simulations of planetary geoengineering. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007;104(24):9949–54. Scholar
  26. 26.
    Matthews HD, Cao L, Caldeira K. Sensitivity of ocean acidification to geoengineered climate stabilization. Geophys Res Lett. 2009;36(10):L10706. Scholar
  27. 27.
    Keller DP, Feng YE, Oschlies A. Potential climate engineering effectiveness and side effects during a high carbon dioxide-emission scenario. Nat Commun. 2014;5:3304. Scholar
  28. 28.
    Brovkin V, Petoukhov V, Claussen M, Bauer E, Archer D, Jaeger C. Geoengineering climate by stratospheric sulfur injections: Earth system vulnerability to technological failure. Clim Chang. 2009;92(3-4):243–59. Scholar
  29. 29.
    Tjiputra JF, Grini A, Lee H. Impact of idealized future stratospheric aerosol injection on the large scale ocean and land carbon cycles. J Geophys Res Biogeosci. 2016;120, doi:10.1002/2015jg003045.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Partanen AI, Keller DP, Korhonen H, Matthews HD. Impacts of sea spray geoengineering on ocean biogeochemistry. Geophys Res Lett. 2016;43(14):7600–8. Scholar
  31. 31.
    Caldeira K, Wickett ME. Anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH. Nature. 2013;425:365–5.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Doney SC, Fabry VJ, Feely RA, Kleypas JA. Ocean acidification: the other CO2 problem. Annu Rev Mar Sci. 2009;1(1):169–92. Scholar
  33. 33.
    McNeil BI, Matear R. Climate Change feedback on future ocean acidification. Tellus. 2007;59:191–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Cao L, Shuangjing W, Meidi Z, Han Z. Sensitivity of ocean acidification and oxygen to the uncertainty in climate change. Environ Res Lett. 2014;9(6):064005. Scholar
  35. 35.
    Bopp L, Resplandy L, Orr JC, Doney SC, Dunne JP, Gehlen M, et al. Multiple stressors of ocean ecosystems in the 21st century: projections with CMIP5 models. Biogeosciences. 2013;10(10):6225–45.
  36. 36.
    Kwiatkowski L, Bopp L, Aumont O, Ciais P, Cox PM, Laufkötter C, et al. Emergent constraints on projections of declining primary production in the tropical oceans. Nat Clim Chang. 2017;7(5):355–8.
  37. 37.
    Curtis PS. A meta-analysis of leaf gas exchange and nitrogen in trees grown under elevated carbon dioxide. Plant Cell Environ. 1996;19(2):127–37. Scholar
  38. 38.
    Owensby CE, Ham JM, Knapp AK, Auen LM. Biomass production and species composition change in a tall grass prairie ecosystem after long-term exposure to elevated atmospheric CO2. Glob Change Biol. 1999;5(5):497–506. Scholar
  39. 39.
    Govindasamy B, Thompson S, Duffy PB, Caldeira K, Delire C. Impact Of geoengineering schemes on the terrestrial biosphere. Geophys Res Lett. 2002;29(22):2061. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Naik V, Wuebbles DJ, Delucia EH, Foley JA. Influence of geoengineered climate on the terrestrial biosphere. Environ Manag. 2003;32(3):373–81. Scholar
  41. 41.
    Glienke SP, Irvine J, Lawrence MG. The impact of geoengineering on vegetation in experiment G1 of the GeoMIP. J Geophys Res Atmos. 2015;120(19):10,196–10, 213. Scholar
  42. 42.
    Mercado LM, Bellouin N, Sitch S, Boucher O, Huntingford C, Wild M, et al. Impact of changes in diffuse radiation on the global land carbon sink. Nature. 2009;458(7241):1014–7.
  43. 43.
    Gu L, Baldocchi D, Verma SB, Black TA, Vesala T, Falge EM, et al. Advantages of diffuse radiation for terrestrial ecosystem productivity. J Geophys Res. 2002;107(D6):ACL 2-1–ACL 2-23.
  44. 44.
    Gu L, Baldocchi D, Wofsy SC, Munger JW, Michalsky JJ, Urbanski SP, et al. Response of a deciduous forest to the Mount Pinatubo eruption: enhanced photosynthesis. Science. 2003;299(5615):2035–8.
  45. 45.
    Farquhar GD, Roderick ML. Pinatubo, diffuse light, and the carbon cycle. Science. 2003;299(5615):1997–8. Scholar
  46. 46.
    Kalidindi S, Bala G, Modak A, Caldeira K. Modeling of solar radiation management: a comparison of simulations using reduced solar constant and stratospheric sulphate aerosols. Clim Dyn. 2014;44(9-10):2909–25. Scholar
  47. 47.
    Xia L, Robock A, Tilmes S, Neely RR III. Stratospheric Sulfate geoengineering could enhance the terrestrial photosynthesis rate. Atmos Chem Phys. 2016;16(3):1479–89. Scholar
  48. 48.
    Gruber N, Galloway JN. An Earth-system perspective of the global nitrogen cycle. Nature. 2008;451(7176):293–6. Scholar
  49. 49.
    Thornton PE, Doney SC, Lindsay K, Moore JK, Mahowald N, Randerson JT, et al. Carbon-nitrogen interactions regulate climate-carbon cycle feedbacks: results from an atmosphere-ocean general circulation model. Biogeosciences. 2009;6(10):2099–120.
  50. 50.
    Bonan GB, Levis S. Quantifying carbon-nitrogen feedbacks in the Community Land Model (CLM4). Geophys Res Lett. 2010;37(7):L07401. Scholar
  51. 51.
    Pongratz JD, Lobell B, Cao L, Caldeira K. Crop Yields in a geoengineered climate. Nat Clim Chang. 2012;2(2):101–5. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Xia L, Robock A, Cole J, Curry CL, Ji D, Jones A, et al. Solar radiation management impacts on agriculture in China: a case study in the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP). J Geophys Res Atmos. 2014;119(14):8695–711.
  53. 53.
    Parkes B, Challinor A, Nicklin K. Crop failure rates in a geoengineered climate: impact of climate change and marine cloud brightening. Environ Res Lett. 2015;10(8):084003. Scholar
  54. 54.
    Yang H, et al. Potential negative consequences of geoengineering on crop production: a study of Indian groundnut. Geophys Res Lett. 2016;43:11, 786–95. Scholar
  55. 55.
    Robock A, Oman L, Stenchikov GK. Regional climate responses to geoengineering with tropical and Arctic SO2 injections. J Geophys Res. 2008;113(D16):D16101. Scholar
  56. 56.
    Jones A, Haywood JM, Alterskjaer K, Boucher O, Cole JNS, Curry CL, et al. The impact of abrupt suspension of solar radiation management termination effect in experiment G2 of the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP). J Geophys Res Atmos. 2013;118(17):9743–52.
  57. 57.
    Kravitz B, MacMartin DG, Leedal DT, Rasch PJ, Jarvis AJ. Explicit feedback and the management of uncertainty in meeting climate objectives with solar geoengineering. Environ Res Lett. 2014;9(4):044006. Scholar
  58. 58.
    Keith DW, Wagner G, Zabel CL. Solar geoengineering reduces atmospheric carbon burden. Nat Clim Chang. 2017;7(9):617–9. Scholar
  59. 59.
    Reed SC, Yang X, Thornton PE. Incorporating phosphorus cycling into global modeling efforts: a worthwhile, tractable endeavor. New Phytol. 2015;208(2):324–9. Scholar
  60. 60.
    Keller DP, Lenton A, Scott V, Vaughan NE, Bauer N, Ji D, et al. The carbon dioxide removal model Intercomparison project (CDR-MIP): rationale and experimental design. Geosci Model Dev Discuss. 2017;, in review.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Atmospheric Sciences, School of Earth SciencesZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

Personalised recommendations