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Press Releases :: October 29, 2010

Chairman Gordon Releases Report on Climate Engineering

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) released a report Engineering the Climate: Research Needs and Strategies for International Collaboration, on climate engineering, also referred to as geoengineering.  The Chairman’s report identifies federal expertise and capabilities relevant to climate engineering research, and calls for transparency, public engagement, international collaboration and a robust risk assessment framework should research be pursued.


“This report is in no way meant as an endorsement of climate engineering. It is my intent that this report, and all of the Committee’s activities on this subject provide a forum for an open and honest public dialogue regarding the science of climate engineering. It gives insight into where existing federal research capacities lie that could be leveraged for these activities—to  help preclude undesirable activities and to establish key next steps for the management and governance of research, in addition to encouraging continued conversation within the federal government on this important topic,” said Bart Gordon (D-TN). 


This report reviews the results of an 18 month inquiry conducted in cooperation with the United Kingdom House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.  During this inquiry the U.S. Committee held three public hearings on climate engineering (November 5th, 2009, February 4th, 2010, and March 18th, 2010), and staff reviewed expert testimony and conducted informal interviews with leading political and scientific experts within federal agencies.


“Climate engineering carries with it a tremendous range of uncertainties and possibilities, ethical and political concerns, and the potential for catastrophic side effects,” said Bart Gordon (D-TN).  “I want to be absolutely clear that I am not in favor of deploying climate engineering; making firm commitments and taking real actions to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions should always be the priority.  However, if we find ourselves passing an environmental tipping point, we will need to have done research to understand our options.  Developing the science will take time, as will developing appropriate governance structures.  We’ve started the conversation in Congress and with the UK House of Parliament; I hope that consideration of appropriate research investments will follow.  We need healthy debate, a transparent process, clear action on emission reductions, and sound scientific research to provide a solid foundation for the tough decision-making that climate change will demand in the future.”


The Chairman’s report:

·         Contains background information on the topic of climate engineering and exploratory research activities currently being conducted.

·         Summarizes the Science and Technology Committee’s public hearings on climate engineering.

·         Identifies key research needs.

·         Identifies activities, tools and skills present in federal agencies that could be leveraged for climate engineering research and provides recommendations for research priorities within these agencies.  Featured agencies include the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

·         Explores potential capacities for, and provides recommendations on, how research might be organized at the federal level and what lessons can be learned from past experiences.

·         Provides general recommendations about next steps, research priorities and management strategies.


Recommendations include:

·         Policymakers should begin consideration of climate engineering research now to better understand which technologies or methods, if any, represent viable strategies for managing a changing climate and which pose unacceptable environmental or economic  risks.

·         There must be an international consensus on climate engineering terminology that will best communicate the strategies, potential risks, and desired effects to the scientific community, policy makers, and the public.

·         Any federal climate engineering research program should leverage existing facilities, instruments, skills and partnerships within federal agencies.

·         Governments should make public engagement a priority of any climate engineering effort.

·         Further collaborative work between national legislatures on topics with international reach, such as climate engineering, should be pursued, and this inquiry between the United States and the United Kingdom should serve as a model for future inter-Committee collaboration.


The Government Accountability Office also released the report, CLIMATE CHANGE: A Coordinated Strategy Could Focus Federal Geoengineering Research and Inform Governance Efforts.  The report examines the state of geoengineering science, federal involvement in geoengineering, and the views of experts and federal officials about the extent to which federal laws and international agreements apply to geoengineering, and any governance challenges.  The report highlighted the need for coordination across federal research entities and a clear research strategy. 


“There is a lot left to decide about what suggested technologies should even be considered climate engineering, and how research activities can be leveraged to inform them,” said Gordon.  “The GAO has laid the groundwork to identify existing research investments as needed. GAO recognizes that coordination and open communication among federal agencies and the research community will be critical to both informing the science and managing risks.”


For more information including on the Committee’s work on climate engineering, please visit our website.





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