UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


European team investigates how to govern solar radiation modification research

30 April 2024

A three-year project involving UCL researchers will examine the principles and guidelines for responsible research into solar radiation modification (SRM) – a controversial idea to limit climate change by reducing how much sunlight reaches the Earth’s surface.

European team investigates how to govern solar radiation modification research

The European Union-funded project, called Co-CREATE, aims to support policymakers in engaging with the issue.

Debate around these technologies can be contentious. Some are concerned that research and development of solar radiation modification would distract from vital efforts to reduce emissions. Others view it as a potential opportunity to limit heating, avoid dangerous ecological tipping points, and protect humanity from the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Dr Peter Irvine (UCL Earth Sciences) and his team at UCL will develop a set of field test case studies, consisting of real experiments that have already taken place and others that could happen in the coming years, to show the challenges that such research poses and to spur critical thinking.

One technology already being field tested by researchers is marine cloud brightening. This idea would involve spraying tiny sea salt particles into the undersides of clouds to make them more reflective.

Dr Irvine said: “Solar radiation modification (SRM) covers a range of different interventions, each with their own potentials, limits, and risks. The Co-CREATE project will bring together a scientific and technical understanding of these details, with an interdisciplinary assessment of the issues, and stakeholder perspectives to develop robust principles and guidelines for SRM research governance.”

This project will engage with diverse stakeholders and rightsholders, including marginalised and affected communities such as indigenous peoples in the Arctic and communities in the Global South. This collaborative approach will anchor project results in a diversity of voices, cultural contexts, and value-systems, reflecting the grappling of society with this complex and contentious issue.

Matthias Honegger, Senior Research Associate at Perspectives Climate Research, which is leading the study, said: “No matter your preference on the long-term role – if any – of SRM in managing threats of climate change to human lives and nature, ignoring the topic will not resolve anything. Cautious and deliberate guidance and collaboration on SRM research and its governance are key.”

Julie Vinders, Senior Research Analyst at Trilateral Research, added: “The Co-CREATE project takes a neutral stance on Solar Radiation Management (SRM) and rather focuses on defining the conditions for responsible research. This research is crucial to facilitate informed discussions about SRM and prevent hasty or unilateral deployment of a technology that is not fully understood.”

The consortium includes 14 research institutions and individuals from Finland, Germany, the UK, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Ireland and Poland.



Media contact

Mark Greaves

T: +44 (0)7990 675947

E: m.greaves [at] ucl.ac.uk