Skip to main content


Log in

Regional disparities in SRM impacts: the challenge of diverging preferences

  • Essay
  • Published:
Climatic Change Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Solar radiation management (SRM) has been proposed as a potential method for reducing risks from global warming. However, a widely held concern is that SRM will not reverse the climate consequences of global warming evenly, resulting in regional disparities in the combined climate response to elevated greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations and SRM. Recent research has used climate model projections to quantitatively assess how regional disparities affect the overall efficiency of global SRM and what the resulting potential for cooperation and conflict with regard to SRM may be. First results indicate that regional disparities, although present, may not be severe. These assessments rest on the assumption that, for all regions, any deviation from a past climate state inflicts damages. We challenge this strong change-is-bad assumption by showing that diverging preferences are not only plausible, but may also have the potential to substantially alter assessments of regional disparities. We argue that current assessments yield little information on the ethical and political implications of SRM and that diverging preferences should receive more attention. Promising directions for future inquiry include bridging gaps to the general climate impact research and to research on the social implications of environmental change.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Consideration of alternative targets in Ban-Weiss and Caldeira (2010), Ricke et al. (2010) and Kravitz et al. (2014)) are confined to the discussion section and do not influence the main analysis.

  2. A detailed description of the illustrative model and the assessment framework can be found in the supplementary materials to this article.


  • Aaheim A (2015) An economic evaluation of solar radiation management. Sci Total Environ 532:61–69. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.05.106

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ammann CM et al. (2010) Climate engineering through artificial enhancement of natural forcings: Magnitudes and implied consequences. J Geophys Res: Atmospheres 115. doi:10. 1029/2009JD012878

  • Arnell N. W. et al. A global assessment of the effects of climate policy on the impacts of climate change. Nat Clim Change, 3(5), 512–519. doi: 10.1038/nclimate1793

  • Ban-Weiss G.A., Caldeira K. (2010) Geoengineering as an optimization problem. Environ Res Lett 5(3). doi:10.1088/1748-9326/5/3/034009

  • Barrett S (2014) Solar geoengineering’s brave new world: thoughts on the governance of an unprecedented technology. Rev Environ Econ Policy. doi:10.1093/reep/reu011

    Google Scholar 

  • Boucher O. et al. (2013) Clouds and aerosols. 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. Cambridge University Press

  • Boyd PW (2009) Geopolitics of geoengineering. Nat Geosci 2:812–812. doi:10.1038/ngeo710

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Calzadilla A et al (2013) Climate change impacts on global agriculture. Clim Chang 120:357–374. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0822-4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Castree N et al (2014) Changing the intellectual climate. Nat Clim Chang 4(9):763–768. doi:10.1038/nclimate2339

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Emmerson C., Lahn G. (2012) Arctic opening: opportunity and risk in the high north. LLoyd’s

  • Ferraro A.J., Charlton-Perez A.J., Highwood E.J. (2014) A risk-based framework for assessing the effectiveness of stratospheric aerosol geoengineering. PLoS ONE 9. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088849

  • Giorgi F, Francisco R (2000) Evaluating uncertainties in the prediction of regional climate change. Geophys Res Lett 27:1295–1298. doi:10.1029/1999GL011016

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Govindasamy B, Caldeira K (2000) Geoengineering earth’s radiation balance to mitigate CO2-induced climate change. Geophys Res Lett 27:2141–2144. doi:10.1029/1999GL006086

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hulme M. (2011) Reducing the future to climate: a story of climate determinism and reductionism. Osiris 26. doi: 10.1086/661274

  • Hulme M. (2014) Can science fix climate change? Polity

  • IPCC (2013) 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. Cambridge University Press

  • IPCC (2014) Summary for policymakers. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and vulnerability. part A: global and sectoral aspects. contribution of working group II to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press

  • Irvine P.J., Ridgwell A., Lunt D.J. (2010) Assessing the regional disparities in geoengineering impacts. Geophys Res Lett 37. doi: 10.1029/2010GL044447

  • Keith D. (2013) A case for climate engineering. MIT Press

  • Kravitz B et al (2011) The geoengineering model intercomparison project (GeoMIP). Atmos Sci Lett 12:162–167. doi:10.1002/asl.316

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kravitz B et al (2013) Climate model response from the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP). J Geophys Res: Atmospheres 118:8320–8332. doi:10.1002/jgrd.50646

    Google Scholar 

  • Kravitz B. et al. (2014) A multi-model assessment of regional climate disparities caused by solar geoengineering. Environ Res Lett 9. doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/7/074013

  • Lunt DJ et al. (2008) Sunshade world: a fully coupled GCM evaluation of the climatic impacts of geoengineering. Geophys Res Lett 35. doi: 10.1029/2008GL033674

  • MacMartin DG, Caldeira K, Keith DW (2014) Solar geoengineering to limit the rate of temperature change. Philos Trans Royal Soc London A: Mathematic, Phys Eng Sci 372(2031):20140134. doi:10.1098/rsta.2014.0134

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moreno-Cruz JB, Ricke KL, Keith DW (2012) A simple model to account for regional inequalities in the effectiveness of solar radiation management. Clim Chang 110:649–668. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0103-z

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Porter J.R. et al. (2014) Food security and food production systems. In: Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. part A: global and sectoral aspects. contribution of working group II to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press

  • Preston, C.J. (2012) Ethics and geoengineering: reviewing the moral issues raised by solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Clim Change 4. doi: 10.1002/wcc.198

  • Ricke KL, Morgan MG, Allen MR (2010) Regional climate response to solar-radiation management. Nat Geosci 3:537–541. doi:10.1038/ngeo915

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ricke K.L. et al. (2012) Effectiveness of stratospheric solar-radiation management as a function of climate sensitivity. Nat Clim Change 2(2). doi:10.1038/nclimate1328

  • Ricke KL, Moreno-Cruz J.B., Caldeira K. (2013) Strategic incentives for climate geoengineering coalitions to exclude broad participation. Environ Res Lett 8. doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/014021

  • Robock A (2008) 20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea. Bull At Sci 64:14–18. doi:10.2968/064002006

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosenzweig C et al (2013) The agricultural model intercomparison and improvement project (AgMIP): protocols and pilot studies. Agric For Meteorol 170:166–182. doi:10.1016/j.agrformet.2012.09.011

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Royal Society (2009) Geoengineering the climate: Science, governance and uncertainty

  • Schneider SH (1996) Geoengineering: could or should we do it? Clim Chang 33:291–302. doi:10.1007/BF00142577

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Serreze MC, Francis JA (2006) The arctic amplification debate. Clim Chang 76:241–264. doi:10.1007/s10584-005-9017-y

  • Stephenson SR, Smith LC, Agnew JA (2011) Divergent long-term trajectories of human access to the arctic. Nat Clim Chang 1:156–160. doi:10.1038/nclimate1120

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Victor DG et al (2009) The geoengineering option: a last resort against global warming? Foreign Aff 88:64–76

    Google Scholar 

  • Weitzman ML (2009) On modeling and interpreting the economics of catastrophic climate change. Rev Econ Stat 91:1–19. doi:10.1162/rest.91.1.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weitzman ML (2012) A voting architecture for the governance of free-driver externalities, with application to geoengineering. NBER Working Paper 18622

  • Wood R, Gardiner S, Hartzell-Nichols L (2013) Climatic change special issue: geoengineering research and its limitations. Clim Chang 121:427–430

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank the editor, the managing editor and three anonymous referees for their comments and suggestions. We also thank Tobias Pfrommer and summer school participants at Harvard University and Heidelberg University for their valuable feedback.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel Heyen.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.


(PDF 494 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Heyen, D., Wiertz, T. & Irvine, P.J. Regional disparities in SRM impacts: the challenge of diverging preferences. Climatic Change 133, 557–563 (2015).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: