At a press conference in Washington, DC last week, BPC’s Task Force on Climate Remediation Research released its final consensus report calling for a coordinated federal research program to explore the potential effectiveness, feasibility, and consequences of climate remediation technologies. BPC convened the blue ribbon 18 member task force in March of 2010 to address the myriad of policy issues raised by the issue of climate remediation, or intentional actions taken to counter the climate effects of past greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Over the course of the last 18 months, the group developed recommendations regarding the organization, agenda, and international components of a federal research program in this area. These consensus recommendations represent a wide range of diverse viewpoints from leading environmental advocates, esteemed social scientists, senior climate and environmental diplomats, climate change scientists and technology experts.
The group stressed that climate remediation research is not a substitute for climate mitigation and adaptation efforts, and that it is far too premature to contemplate deployment of any climate remediation technology. The principal rationale for research, the report argues, is to ensure that the United States has the requisite knowledge—in the physical and social sciences, in humanities, and with informed by civil society—to proceed wisely if the climate system ever reaches a tipping point and swift remedial action is required. Task force members emphasized that research does not assume eventual deployment; rather, a research program may reveal that no proposed climate remediation techniques could be deployed without overwhelming unintended consequences or risks. Moreover, the report argues, the threat of unilateral action by another country is real, and the United States must understand these issues to “engage in—and lead—international discussions and to evaluate how other nations or private entities may act.”
The report builds on a number of recent examinations of issues related to climate remediation (also known as geoengineering), including the UK Royal Society’s 2009 report, Chairman Bart Gordon’s report from the House Committee on Science, the National Academies’ America’s Climate Choices Report, and—most recently—a report from the Government Accountability Office entitled Climate Engineering: Technical Status, Future Directions, and Potential Responses, among others. The BPC task force report advances these general calls for research by outlining in some detail the way such a federal climate remediation research program should be organized within the federal government and how the United States might interact with other nations.