Many geoengineering experts complain about the lack of research in the field, and widespread deployment of the technologies seems a distant prospect.
The debate is “at the point where the appropriateness of [research and development] is the issue,” says Robert Socolow, who works on carbon management and sequestration at Princeton University in New Jersey.
Socolow says that the focus now should be understanding how the Earth works, research that will serve two purposes. Studies of Arctic ice, for example, will help researchers to understand how intervention could slow sea-level rise, and work on clouds could contribute to solar-radiation management.
“But first of all we will reduce our collective ignorance about clouds and ice,” he says. “No message comes through from the [summary for policy-makers] more forcefully than how urgent it is to improve Earth-system science.”