Hello all,

 

A new paper on SRM’s termination shock, written by Pete Irvine and me, is 
published today in Earth’s Future. You can read it here:  
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017EF000735/full

 

Termination shock is often cited as one of the greatest risks from the 
development of SRM, but we noticed that most analysis is based on studies 
that model only worst-case scenarios. Typically commentators do not 
consider the factors that might cause – or avert – a sudden termination.  
In other words, people have been concluding on risk by looking only at 
vivid, worst-case impacts without any serious consideration of likelihood. 

 

In our paper we begin by characterising the physical dimensions of 
termination shock, then we look at the steps you’d have to go through for a 
driver (such as a natural disaster or political opposition) to lead to 
termination. We also consider where timely policy interventions might help.

 

We conclude that:

- If our assumptions about the costs and feasibility of SRM prove 
reasonable, it should be relatively easy to construct an SRM system that 
would be robust and resilient against all but the most biblical of global 
catastrophes. Some things that commentators have assumed could disable an 
SRM system (such as terrorist attacks or political demands) should not be 
able to do so unless the system were badly designed.

- An SRM system could be interrupted for many months before temperatures 
began to rise, giving a buffer period in which it would be possible to 
redeploy. 

- Where multiple actors are capable of maintaining or redeploying SRM it 
cannot be terminated unilaterally.  This is good for avoiding termination 
shock, not so good for lock-in. A consensus of capable parties is not 
required to start SRM, but might be needed to stop it once termination 
shock becomes possible. 

- People often say that say that once you start SRM you can’t stop it, but 
that’s just not accurate. A low level of SRM cooling could be stopped 
suddenly without fear of a large rise in temperatures and even a large 
degree of cooling could be phased out over a long period.

 

Note that we do not find any reason to dismiss the risk of termination 
shock. If SRM is ever seriously considered for implementation then managing 
this risk should be a central concern.  But we think that analysis of the 
risks of termination shock needs to consider likelihood alongside scale of 
impacts and we hope that our paper provides a foundation for this 
discussion.

 

Andy

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