Climate Intervention

The first implementation strategy of SOLAS (2003) had a major focus on the science that underlies ocean iron fertilisation, and the oceanic and atmospheric feedbacks (such as the release of dimethyl sulfide, and the drawdown of carbon dioxide) to this perturbation, an example of a geoengineering approach. This research informed policy, via the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission guide to policymakers, and international legislation (International Maritime Organisation 2013 amendment to the London Convention (LC) and London Protocol (LP).

Since 2013, there has been a reassessment of the role that geoengineering approaches, in the atmosphere and the ocean, may play in reducing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and/or global warming. Since COP 21 in Paris in December 2015, it has become evident that climate mitigation alone cannot help us restrict warming 2 degrees or less. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in 2016, employed the term ‘negative emissions’ in the context of the need to both decrease emissions but also purposely remove greenhouse gases and store them in reservoirs within the earth system. The terminology ‘climate intervention’ has superseded that of geoengineering. In line with these recent developments, SOLAS has developed a position statement on climate intervention.

Processes and impacts/stressors associated with long-lived greenhouse gases.

The five core themes of phase two of SOLAS. Each overlaid with specific physico-chemical and biogeochemical observations, process studies, and modelling that will together provide detailed insights into the challenges and benefits of using climate intervention on a range of scales from global to regional. Their combined impact will be to enhance the ability of international researchers to conduct independent assessment of the efficacy of a range of atmospheric and oceanic climate intervention approaches, which is a key requirement for governance.



Team leaders

Lennart Bach (Australia,
Raquel Oliveira (Brazil,

Team members

Philip Boyd (Australia,
Minhan Dai (China,
Erik van Doorn (Germany,
Linn Hoffmann (New Zealand, )
Cliff Law (New Zealand,
Lisa Miller (Canada,
Arvind Singh (India,

SOLAS Position Statement on Climate Intervention Research

Given the importance and sensitivity of this topic, SOLAS defined a position statement in July 2018:

The many dimensions and consequences of human perturbation of the climate system pose enormous and unprecedented challenges to human society. In light of widespread international agreement to limit increasing global temperatures, policy decisions will be made in the near future about climate intervention. It is essential that this decision making process be informed by sound and robust science. The SOLAS community has specific expertise and can provide critical insights into interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean, and therefore, SOLAS has a responsibility to make a multi-faceted contribution to discussions on climate intervention.



Provide knowledge
A multi-disciplinary focus on the interface between the ocean and atmosphere places SOLAS in an ideal position to provide Future Earth, and organisations such as SCOR, with fundamental knowledge (figure above) that will inform assessment of the two primary forms of climate intervention (Negative Emissions Technologies (NET); and Solar Radiation Management (SRM).
Extend previous research
The second SOLAS science plan comprises five distinct themes, each of which has multiple strands with the potential to provide insights into physical, chemical, biological, and ecological facets of climate intervention. Hence, each of the five themes broadens previous research to assess oceanic and atmospheric responses to perturbation of the boundary layer (such as foams to modify albedo), lower atmosphere (such as marine cloud brightening), and upper ocean (such as ocean alkalisation).

The integrated SOLAS focus will involve lab experiments, observations, natural analogues, and modelling, for assessment of feedbacks between the Surface Ocean and Lower Atmosphere (figure above). Importantly, these approaches will not contravene existing codes of conduct or regulation (such as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity moratorium, or the LC/LP), but will provide detailed information on a suite of unaddressed questions. As was the case in the first phase of SOLAS, the implementation of this science will go hand in hand with the translation of the results into policy and environmental legislation.





Planned activities

  • Co-ordinate and run a cross-theme SOLAS workshop to bring together observationalists and modellers to assess where and how SOLAS Science can best inform climate intervention.
  • Assess broader (Earth System) climate intervention approaches & requirements with scientists from other programmes within WCRP and Future Earth, including socio-economists.
  • Foster an “umbrella” organisation for governance and/or guidelines for scientists to independently carry out activities related to climate intervention.
  • Form clear links with SOLAS Science & Society by providing robust scientific knowledge that can be subsequently explored through the lenses of societal needs.

Each of the above steps are essential to develop and co-ordinate the proposed research areas identified in the figure above, and their uptake by International Coordination and Policy.