Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Revised AGU Position Statement Addresses Climate Intervention

The American Geophysical Union urges further research and policy development with regard to climate intervention (previously called geoengineering) that considers impacts on society.


The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has adopted a revised position statement on climate intervention, which is purposeful intervention by humans to alter Earth’s climate. The updated position statement, approved on 12 January by AGU’s Board of Directors, replaces a prior AGU statement in which such interventions were referred to as “geoengineering solutions.”

The statement, titled “Climate Intervention Requires Enhanced Research, Consideration of Societal and Environmental Impacts, and Policy Development,” also discusses two distinct categories of intervention that are most prevalent in current research: carbon dioxide removal and albedo modification. In addition, it includes updated references, such as two 2015 reports by the National Academies.

A panel of subject matter experts who are also AGU members crafted the newly adopted position statement during the past year. The group worked to ensure that the statement was updated to reflect current scientific understanding in the field.

“Climate intervention could play a key role in managing the effects of climate change, but our scientific understanding of its impacts remains poor,” said David Victor of the University of California, San Diego, and Brookings Institution, who chaired the panel. He stressed that more research is needed to better understand the potential risks and opportunities of climate intervention.

Under Current Discussion by Policy Makers

This update to AGU’s position on this topic is timely, given that the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology recently held a hearing on climate intervention. The hearing, on 8 November 2017, titled “Geoengineering: Innovation, Research, and Technology,” addressed current scientific understanding of geoengineering, the need for research, and the need for caution in implementation.

AGU has taken a public position since 2009 on climate intervention (then called geoengineering) by originally adopting a statement on 13 December of that year in collaboration with the American Meteorological Society (AMS). AMS had adopted the statement during the preceding summer. AGU independently revised and reaffirmed its initial statement in February 2012.

Resources for Policy Makers and AGU Members

Position statements by scientific societies can serve as resources for policy makers as they seek to understand science issues and craft legislation. AGU develops and maintains position statements to provide scientific expertise on significant policy issues related to the understanding and application of the Earth and space sciences.

AGU encourages members to use our organization’s position statements to guide conversations with students, local communities, policy makers, and other members of the public. AGU makes available its position statements in the AGU Resource Center. They, along with AGU’s Advocacy Policy, are valuable resources for those looking to connect with the public on issues related to Earth and space sciences.


• David Victor, University of California, San Diego, and Brookings Institution (chair)
• Ken Caldeira, Carnegie Institution for Science
• Piers Forster, University of Leeds
• Ben Kravitz, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
• Marcia McNutt, National Academy of Sciences
• Joyce Penner, University of Michigan
• Alan Robock, Rutgers University
• Naomi Vaughan, University of East Anglia
• Jennifer Wilcox, Colorado School of Mines

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

Correction, 21 February 2018: An earlier version of this article has been revised to provide the correct date that the updated position statement was approved.

Citation: Landau, E. (2018), Revised AGU position statement addresses climate intervention, Eos, 99, Published on 18 January 2018.
Text © 2018. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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