(NAIROBI, KENYA and SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA- October 8, 2013). Today the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative (SRMGI) released the first major report on African engagement on the controversial topic of solar geoengineering (also known as solar radiation management or SRM).
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The report, entitled Governance of Research on Solar Geoengineering: African Perspectives, summarises a series of groundbreaking workshops held across Africa in 2012 and early 2013. It explores the potentially large impacts (both positive and negative) that solar geoengineering could have for African people and ecosystems, and highlights the diversity of African perspectives on solar geoengineering governance.
International negotiations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions are progressing slowly, while global emissions are continuing to rise. Potentially inexpensive and easy-to-deploy technologies, such as SRM, are gaining attention as possible options for alleviating some of the harmful extremes of global climate change. Their side effects are only poorly understood however, and most discussions to date on SRM research governance, as well as most research activities, have taken place in developed countries. People in developing countries are often most vulnerable both to climate change and potential efforts to respond to it.
Berhanu Abegaz, Executive Director of the African Academy of Sciences, urged stakeholders in Africa to develop greater interest in SRM: “Africa cannot afford to be an observer in the SRM discourse,” said Prof. Berhanu Abegaz. “Africa currently bears the biggest brunt of the impacts of climate change and stands to benefit or lose the most from any initiative that seeks to control solar radiation.”
To introduce African stakeholders to the concept of SRM, and seek their opinions and ideas on how it should be governed, the AAS partnered with SRMGI to hold a series of open dialogue workshops in three African countries: Senegal, South Africa, and Ethiopia. These regional workshops drew over 100 participants from 21 different countries, including academics, scientists, policy makers, journalists, NGO representatives, and interested members of the public.
Today’s report documents the diversity of perspectives and contains a number of suggestions for future African engagement with solar geoengineering. It finds no clear pattern of support or opposition towards solar geoengineering amongst participants. There was a high level of support for small scale and safe research, and a high level of opposition to full-scale deployment of SRM at this stage, but less agreement over how best to govern research projects conducted outside the laboratory. Participants also generally showed strong support for continued and well-coordinated African engagement, suggesting the establishment of a pan-African expert group, enhancement of SRM research in African universities, and inclusion of broad cross-section of Africans in continuing discussions about SRM research and its implications.