Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Position Statement on Geoengineering: Call for Comments

AGU last updated its position on this topic 5 years ago.


A panel of experts has created an updated draft position of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) on geoengineering. The organization encourages its members to provide written feedback about this draft statement during a 30-day comment period that opens today and closes on Monday, 25 September at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time.

Comments must be submitted online here. The panel will review all of them before completing a final version of the statement.

AGU first formulated an official position on geoengineering in 2009, when it adopted a statement in collaboration with the American Meteorological Society. AGU last updated its geoengineering statement in 2012.

AGU position statements relate the understanding and application of Earth and space sciences to relevant public policy. Members are encouraged to use position statements to help communicate with stakeholders about important Earth and space science topics. The current list of AGU statements is available on the society’s web page of position statements and letters.

Contributing members of the expert panel, which was convened at the request of the AGU Position Statement Task Force, include David Victor (Chair), Ken Caldeira, Piers Forster, Ben Kravitz, Marcia McNutt, Joyce Penner, Alan Robock, Naomi Vaughan, and Jennifer Wilcox.

—Elizabeth Landau (email: [email protected]), Assistant Director, Public Affairs, AGU

Citation: Landau, E. (2017), Position statement on geoengineering: Call for comments, Eos, 98, Published on 24 August 2017.
© 2017. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
  • Brad Arnold

    As I pointed out before, Leemans & Eickout (2004) shows that ecosystems collapse much faster when the average temperature rises rapidly. It is the high high temperatures that will inevitably manifest. Therefore, we will face a human bottleneck (due to the collapsed ecosystems) if we don’t dim the sun or reduce the carbon in the air (not just the rate of carbon emission into the air).

    Although I am impressed by hydroponics, a company called Plenty claims they can grow crops with Vertical Farming as cheap as outside, and reduce the supply-line at supermarkets from 3000 miles to 500!

    It is really a no-brainer. I was thinking today that it would actually be a boon, because if we routinely put enough sun dimming stuff into the air, then we could decrease it in response to natural causes like volcanoes and asteroid strikes.

  • Sealwrangler

    The draft statement is an important one and the authors should be thanked for the hard work. However Non de Plume’s comments are well taken in that SRM may actually make the problems worse as it will temporarily mask the impacts and drive more CO2 generation. Additionally the ocean acidification issue is a critical one, and one requiring much more interdisciplinary cooperation. Perhaps on this point the AGU can work with other scientific communities and researchers in expanding our understanding of this issue.

  • Nom de Plume

    A position statement that understates the urgency of action, as voluntary emission agreements are bound to fail. Whereas both have challenges, CDR seems the path forward (“treat the illness”), as SLR does nothing to change the condition (“treat the symptoms”).

  • Peter Eisenberger

    While I fully support the need for research on so called Geoengineering this document commits/continues two large distortions in its advocay that in the end do real damage to our common objective of addressing the threat of climate change.

    The first is to call CDR Geoengineering, continuing a distortion that has only to do with the founding of Geoengineeing and not with science. In simply terms the climate threat can be addressed by converting to renewable energy and CDR which effectively revereses fossil fuel energy and emissions. There is no risk of unintended consequences if CDR is DAC with the carbon stored in materials like carbon fiber and concrete(as well as many other materials) .It is simply a pollution control technology that revereses the damage we have done with our emissions. SRM , Ocean Fetilization , and non technological CDR( involving biological components BECCS , Reforestation ) all have risks of unintended consequences if practiced at large scale that should be evaluated via research efforts.

    The second distortion is the most worrisome and in my opinion will be judged by history to represent a real failure of the scientific community, and when analyzed a failure that reflects poorly on our community. That distotion is the consistent undervaluing of the DAC option. In first order terms DAC has as decribed above the singular possibilty of reversing our CO2 concentration with minimal if any risks yet it has effectively recieved zero public dollars to evaluate its potential . Yet this document advocates for dollars for Geoengineering that everyone agrees has risks of unintended consequences. To support an emergency backup solution before one supports a primary solution is a logical contortion that I do not understand nor do others not directly involved in addressing the climate challenge. Supporting this distortion is some argument, rejected by now by many experts but not publically acknowledged, that DAC must be costly. This arguement has no scientific justification and has echoes of the many previous negative asseesments like airplanes cannot fly. In fact several companies, my company Global Thermostat included , have advocated that we know DAC need not be very costly. Our company in particular is on the record of advocating we can remove CO2 from the air for under $50 dollars per tonne. Furthermore as opposed to the past our patents are now published and it would be easy for experts to understand why our costs can be so low . But in spite of making that offer to experts and my willingness to talk with them , no one is making the effort. Instead they continue to act as if low cost DAC does not exist and advocate altenative solutions.

    I have told many who will listen that our company is commercializing our DAC technology and it is good for our business that the experts who might compete with us underestimate the DAC commercial potential. But I am a scientist and more importantly a citizen of planet earth so I feel the responsibility to continue to bring the potential of DAC to the attention of others. Our company has agreed to take no R&D dollars from any public investment in DAC in order to remove any conflict of interest. I hope we all can agree we should evaluate the potential of DAC before we allocate resources for something that we will only use if DAC fails.

  • Roger Clifton

    Any attempt to reduce the flow of excess carbon into the air/ocean system would provide a glimmer of hope to those of us who deserve no hope at all. We – the whole world – must instead face up to what we have done, to what we are doing, and to what he must stop doing.

    The target date of 2100 to achieve net zero global emissions is perilously close. We cannot afford to create excuses to delay the progressive elimination of emissions worldwide. Neither should the call for “more research” distract the enormous capacity of the developed nations’ scientists and engineers to the R&D of cheap, reliable, copious, non-carbon energy.

    • Brad Arnold

      I predict that future energy technology will enable the wholesale removal of excess carbon from the air. In the meantime we are facing ecosystem collapse due to higher high temperature waves. It is shocking how fast ecosystems collapse in the face of heat waves. Yeah, we better not geoengineer, because that will prevent people from cutting the rate of their emissions (or at least keeping it flat). The infrastructure we have now built guarantees a high rate of carbon emissions, plus carbon sinks are going to start becoming carbon emitters (big-time).