First online workshop on SRM in Indonesia
On 30 July 2020, SRMGI (the Degrees Initiative) collaborated with The Climate Reality Project Indonesia and the ITS Research Center for Disaster Mitigation and Climate Change to conduct an online workshop on SRM geoengineering. The session featured a mix of short presentations and group discussions that allowed the participants to explore the potential risks and benefits of SRM and think about how Indonesia could potentially engage with the topic. The workshop was mainly conducted in Indonesian, and brought together 17 participants from the Indonesian climate community, representing national and local governmental bodies, academia, NGOs, the media, think tanks and civil-society groups.
Amanda Katili—Manager of The Climate Reality Project Indonesia—gave the opening talk, stressing the importance of social and political engagement as a response to climate change rather than sole reliance on technology: “Science and technology are essential in addressing climate change. However, putting our hopes in technologies should be complemented with social and political transformations that are essential to enable the widespread deployment of both behavioural and technological responses to climate change”.
Introduction to SRM
Andy Parker—Project Director of SRMGI/Degrees—delivered an introductory briefing on the science and socio-political dimensions of SRM. He explained that SRM is not an alternative to cutting emissions, but is the only known way to quickly stop or reverse the rise in global temperatures, with modelling evidence indicating that moderate SRM use could reduce climate risks. But the uncertainties are huge: could SRM distract us from cutting emissions? Could research prove a slippery slope to deployment? How could more than 200 countries possibly agree on where to set the global thermostat?
Dr Heri Kuswanto then presented his research on SRM’s potential impacts in Indonesia—in particular its projected impacts on temperature and humidity. Dr Kuswanto is Director of Postgraduate Programs and Academic Development at the Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember in Surabaya and the principal investigator for the Indonesia Degrees Modelling Fund (DMF) project. His team is conducting the first SRM modelling study in South East Asia, and his presentation outlined the project’s approach and preliminary results.
What could SRM mean for Indonesia?
Following the presentations, Arifah Handayani from The Climate Reality Project Indonesia kick-started the focus group discussions, inviting the participants to reflect on SRM and what it could mean for Indonesia. Seeking to understand the state-of-the-art of SRM research, some of them wondered if SRM had ever been tested on a large scale, or whether this was still limited to small-scale experiments. Andy Parker explained that only very limited field experiments have been conducted so far to test some components of the system. As most of the research so far has been computer modelling, a couple of participants suggested that simulations would eventually need to be validated with other experiments. Adding to this, one participant noted that particular attention should be paid to investigating local impacts, for example in Jakarta, while recognising it would involve significant efforts and complex computations.
Exploring the potential side effects of SRM, some stakeholders expressed concern about SRM’s potential impact on renewable energies or food security. During this first part of the discussion, several participants also highlighted how much the research conducted by Dr Kuswanto’s team is appreciated: “Further research should be done on the other potential impacts of SRM in Indonesia, given that Indonesia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and that this technology could be implemented by Indonesia but also by other countries”.
Turning to the socio-political dimensions of the topic, one participant asked whether social scientists were involved in DMF projects. Dr Kuswanto explained it wasn’t the case for now, but that this was just the beginning of the involvement of developing countries in the topic.
How might Indonesia engage with SRM?
Arifah Handayani then invited the participants to reflect on how Indonesia might consider engaging with SRM research and its governance.
Exploring the potential role of SRM alongside adaptation and mitigation, one participant observed that in Indonesia, the Ministry of Forestry is still focusing on emission reduction projects but that SRM could potentially offer further leverage, shaving off a peak in temperatures and therefore buying time for emissions cuts. Another attendee highlighted that SRM should only be seen as one potential component of a portfolio of measures against climate change, working in complement to adaptation and mitigation.
“Solar geoengineering needs to be part of the conversation, because otherwise Indonesia won’t be able to achieve the 1.5 °C target” continued one person, before adding that whether or not Indonesia would ever deploy it, SRM could still go ahead and impact Indonesia: “People need to know about potential impacts and have a voice to share their concerns through governance mechanisms. We need to know what the other countries are doing on this”.
“Has the topic already been discussed at UNFCCC COP meetings?” asked another person, while a fellow participant wondered who funds SRM research and whether any funders could have a hidden agenda. The discussion then moved onto public perception as participants reflected on how the very idea of sunlight reflection would be received. What does SRM mean to the general public? What do they understand? How do they react? A participant noted that while Indonesia should focus on mitigation, it should also think about how to bring the topic of SRM to the attention of the public and local governments. Having said that, an important observation was made on preventing SRM from distracting people from the crucial task of cutting emissions: “Many people might still think that if we use SRM, then we don’t need to reduce emissions as it would cool down the Earth anyway. As we don’t want that misunderstanding to happen, we need to communicate in such a way that it becomes very clear that this can only be in addition to mitigation—not instead”.
Looking beyond the meeting
In closing, the organisers thanked the participants and there was a general agreement to keep the conversation going in person when the global health situation will allow it, seeing as the focus group session had only just scratched the surface of the issue and there is so much more to cover.
About the partners
The Climate Reality Project Indonesia—the Indonesian branch of a global organisation founded by former US Vice President Al Gore in 2006 and whose mission is to catalyze a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every sector of society.
The Research Center for Disaster Mitigation and Climate Change—part of Surabaya’s Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITS) and which hosts the first SRM research project in Indonesia that is funded by SRMGI/DMF (formerly DECIMALS).
SRMGI/the Degrees Initiative—an international, NGO-driven project that seeks to build the capacity of developing countries to evaluate SRM geoengineering.