Degrees’ main focus is on developing countries, but we have a wider interest in expanding international discussion around SRM and in November we were pleased to realise a long-standing goal – to hold an SRM discussion workshop in Russia. Russia has long been a pioneer of SRM research, and as early as 1974 climatologist Mikhail Budyko was the first person to suggest that injecting aerosols into the stratosphere might reduce global temperature. In 2009, Russian scientists, led by the late Prof Yuri Izrael, were the first to conduct field experiments on components of the SRM system. Russian scientists have not been well represented in SRM discussions to date, however, and so SRMGI (The Degrees Initiative) was pleased to partner with the Yu. A. Izrael Centre for Global Climate and Ecology (IGCE) to run a one-day workshop in Moscow on 5 November 2019.
The event was attended by more than 50 experts in the fields of climatology, environmental protection, atmospheric chemistry, international relations, economics, and law. Welcome remarks were made by Prof Anna Romanovskaya, Director of IGCE and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Science, and Prof Sergey Semenov, scientific advisor of the IGCE, before the technical presentations began.
Dr Galina Surkova, a climatologist at Moscow State University, set the scene for the day’s discussions. She covered the state of knowledge on global climate change, and how it might affect Russia. Andy Parker of SRMGI/Degrees and Dr Mariaa Belaia of Harvard University then gave overview of SRM geoengineering, with Dr Belaia doing the lion’s share of the presentation, explaining the subtleties of SRM science and governance in Russian. Two further presentations concluded the morning’s briefings:
- Dr Veronika Ginzburg of IGCE reviewed the history of how SRM has been dealt with by the IPCC
- Dr Anastasia Revokatova and Dr Vladimir Ivanov presented a history of Russian SRM research, from Budyko’s ground-breaking research onwards
Following the morning briefings, the session moved into onto panel and plenary discussion. Four eminent climate thinkers shared their views on the challenges raised by SRM: Dr Oksana Lipka, (WWF Russia); Dr. Sergey Gromov (vice director, IGCE); Dr. Georgii Alexandrov (AM Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences); Mr Ilya Stepanov (National Research University Higher School of Economics).
Building on the panel’s insights, the participants discussed the complex scientific, social, legal and ethical issues that SRM presents and they assessed possible next steps for research and governance in Russia. In particular it was noted that there is great uncertainty about the socio-political implications of geoengineering. Participants expressed concerns that there is the threat of damage to natural ecosystems from SRM, and that any impact may have irreversible consequences. In general, the panellists welcomed research, noting that assessment and risk reduction should be highest priorities.
During moderated small-group discussions, participants were asked whether they feared SRM would reduce Russian government interest in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. “No”, quipped one scientist, “you can’t reduce from zero”. Many participants nodded in response, although there was real concern that SRM should not be described as an alternative to emissions cuts. There was a high level of agreement that Russian researchers needed to connect with their colleagues around the world, building up dialogue over research and its implications. Joint projects were suggested, and a broader conversation around SRM in Russia was encouraged.