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Regional disparities in SRM impacts: the challenge of diverging preferences

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Abstract

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.

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Notes

  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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Daniel Heyen.

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Heyen, D., Wiertz, T. & Irvine, P.J. Regional disparities in SRM impacts: the challenge of diverging preferences. Climatic Change 133, 557–563 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1526-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1526-8

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