Saving the Arctic? Reflecting sunlight with aerosols: governance gaps and challenges

Arctic Circle Assembly in-person Side Event

Friday, 15 October 2021 at 17:30-18:25 (UTC) 

As the Arctic continues to warm at alarming speed with huge global consequences, a technique known as Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI) is being explored as a form of Solar Radiation Modification (SRM), to temporarily constrain global temperature rise and reduce the increasing risks posed by the impacts of climate change. While the technique could not substitute the need for deep emissions cuts, removals and adaptation, research implies it might potentially help avoid critical climate tipping points (including those in the Arctic system), while mitigation action reaches required levels.

The theoretical technique involves aerosols being sprayed into the stratosphere, with the aim of reducing temperatures by reflecting solar radiation back into space. While it may theoretically be effective at achieving global cooling, the technique faces large uncertainties, risks and knowledge gaps as well as constraints to its deployment relating to governance, ethics, and sustainable development.

At present, there is a low level of international awareness around this technique, the potential environmental, social and security risks it may present or help avoid, and how to weigh the risks of its exploration or deployment against the risks of ignoring or banning it altogether. Comprehensive international frameworks to govern SAI are lacking and there is an urgent need for inclusive and transparent discussions to ensure effective governance so that any research, testing or potential use of such a technique could be steered in a collectively desirable direction.

Join the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G) at our in-person side-event at the Arctic Circle Assembly exploring a matrix of challenging questions like: What is SAI all about and who decides – if, when, how – it might one day be tested, developed or used? with our panel of expert speakers.

Learn more about C2G’s work on the Arctic here.


Béatrice Coroenne, Technology Mechanism, YOUNGO

Béatrice Coroenne is a French engineer. After studying engineering specialized in the field of energy and environment, she worked for several years on the energy markets at European scale. She is currently studying at the School of Advanced International and Political Studies (HEIP), France for a master’s degree in public affairs and public policies.

She joined YOUNGO and Engineers Without Borders to be more active in the fight against global warming and to raise awareness among youth. She is one of the two contact points of the YOUNGO’s Technology Mechanism working group. The group develops projects about the implementation and use of climate technologies through webinars or labs, with collaboration  of organizations like CTCN, TEC, C2G or Silverlining. 

Douglas MacMartin, Cornell University

Douglas MacMartin is a Senior Research Fellow in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. His research focuses on climate engineering with the aim of helping to develop the knowledge base necessary to support informed future societal decisions in this challenging and controversial field. He has published extensively on the subjectand in addition to public and academic presentations, has provided briefings to the UN Environment Program and testimony to the US Congress, and is a member of a US National Academies panel that will make recommendations on both research and governance. 

He received his Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT in 1992; previous positions include United Technologies Research Center (1994-2000) and the California Institute of Technology (2000-2015). His research is funded by NSF and by the Cornell University Atkinson Center. 

Halldór Thorgeirsson, Icelandic Climate Council

Halldór Thorgeirsson chairs the Icelandic Climate Council and acts as a consultant on topics relating to climate change and biodiversity. He held strategic positions at the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany, for fourteen years until retirement in 2018. Responsibilities included managing substantive support to the negotiation of the Paris Agreement as Senior Director for Strategy. He also managed the interface with the scientific assessment function of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  

Before joining the secretariat, Thorgeirsson served as the Chair of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) for a two-year term. His research activities included studies of nitrogen cycling, the impact of elevated carbon dioxide on the carbon balance of trees in situ and measurements of fluxes of carbon dioxide and water over crops and forest canopies and of methane from Arctic wetlands. He holds a Ph.D. in Plant Ecophysiology from Utah State University.  



Cynthia Scharf, Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative

Cynthia Scharf is Senior Strategy Director at the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G). She previously served as the head of strategic communications and chief speechwriter on climate change for the United Nations secretary-general from 2009-2016. As a senior member of the secretary-general’s Climate Change Support Team, she played a key role in the secretary-general’s two global climate change summits (2014 and 2009) and advised the secretary-general during the UNFCCC negotiations, including the landmark Paris climate change agreement in 2015.

Prior to her work on climate change, Scharf worked on global humanitarian and public health emergencies at the UN and with international non-governmental organizations in the Balkans, Africa, the UK, and Russia. She also has private sector experience working in the social impact investing field. Scharf began her career as a journalist in Moscow in the early 1990s covering the collapse of the communist system in the former USSR and Eastern Europe.

Scharf’s articles on politics, the economy, and the environment have been published in The International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal Europe, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Moscow Times, Globe and Mail, and elsewhere. She received her MA from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and speaks Russian.


“Why does governing climate-altering approaches require full societal participation?”

Halldór Thorgeirsson
Chair, Icelandic Climate Council

“Why is governance of climate-altering approaches in the Arctic important?​”

Douglas MacMartin
Senior Research Fellow, Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University

“Why we need to talk about the governance of solar radiation modification in the Arctic now?”

Cynthia Scharf
Senior Strategy Director, Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G)

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