Transdisciplinary co-design of scientific research agendas: 40 research questions for socially relevant climate engineering research

Abstract

Interest in climate engineering research has grown rapidly owing to the slow progress of international climate negotiations. As some scientists are proposing to expand research and conduct field tests, there is an emerging debate about whether and how it should proceed. It is widely accepted both by the supporters and critics that public engagement from the early stage of research is necessary. Nonetheless, most, if not all, of existing research projects of climate engineering were designed predominantly by experts. To produce socially relevant knowledge, and hence, pursue transdisciplinary research that integrates interdisciplinary research and public engagement, it is desirable for scientists to decide together with the public on what kind of research should be done. In this paper, we both as Japanese scientists and stakeholders collaboratively identify 40 socially relevant research questions on climate engineering with a particular emphasis on stratospheric aerosol injection, using a method designed to encourage science–policy collaboration. While we acknowledge some methodological problems and the difficulty in obtaining active participation from stakeholders, the list of identified questions covers broad interdisciplinary perspectives and diverse interests, and may provide an important foundation for future transdisciplinary research on climate engineering. Given the dynamic nature of climate change and policy responses, research agendas should be periodically and iteratively reviewed and updated through transdisciplinary processes.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    While these reports all recognize mitigation and adaptation as first priorities, it is still significant that climate engineering has become an important part of the scientific discourse.

  2. 2.

    Here we use the word "scientists" in a broad sense, which means that it includes not only natural scientists and engineers, but also social scientists and humanity scholars.

  3. 3.

    Although we lump SRM and CDR/GGR together in this paper by following the previous literature, these two are more increasingly treated separately, because there are little common features between them (e.g., Boucher et al. 2014).

  4. 4.

    Although not an SRM strictly speaking, there is another related technique which aims at thinning cirrus clouds to reduce warming effects of high clouds.

  5. 5.

    The cost would nonlinearly increase with radiative forcing because of the particle size growth. In addition, the low cost may not be an inherent advantage and is the reason for the concern about unilateral deployment.

  6. 6.

    Despite its naming, moral hazard is not limited to ethical issues and also concerned with risk management (Lin 2013).

  7. 7.

    An exception is Schäfer et al. (2015).

  8. 8.

    Two individuals in stakeholder groups (one from government ministries, the other from media) were also invited, but cancelled their attendance on the day of the workshop for personal reasons.

  9. 9.

    Some researcher participants regularly consult with governments and participate in the science–policy interface, and the invited government agencies are closely related to funding agencies. We did not reach out to development organizations, because this workshop focused mostly on Japan, a developed country.

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Acknowledgments

We sincerely express our gratitude to William Sutherland for spending time with us and sharing his insights. We thank Kayoko Namba for her excellent logistical and research assistance. We thank Yosuke Arino and Ryo Moriyama for their advice on the workshop design. We also extend our gratitude to all of the contributors to the initial set of research questions. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticisms. This project was supported by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) Research Institute of Science and Technology for Society (RISTEX) as part of the Future Earth project.

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Correspondence to Masahiro Sugiyama.

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Sugiyama, M., Asayama, S., Kosugi, T. et al. Transdisciplinary co-design of scientific research agendas: 40 research questions for socially relevant climate engineering research. Sustain Sci 12, 31–44 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-016-0376-2

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Keywords

  • Transdisciplinary research
  • Co-design of research agenda
  • Climate engineering
  • Stratospheric aerosol injection
  • Public engagement