The 21-month, $630,000 project will be run by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) with funding coming from the CIA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA.
The project is called "Geoengineering Climate: Technical Evaluation and Discussion of Impacts." Geoengineering is a fairly broad term, but in this context it refers to efforts to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere or reflect solar radiation away from Earth to lessen the effects of global warming.
According to the project's official description, a committee of experts will "conduct a technical evaluation of a limited number of proposed geoengineering techniques, including examples of both solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal techniques, and comment generally on the potential impacts of deploying these technologies, including possible environmental, economic, and national security concerns." The 16-member committee, which has already met three times, includes experts from the University of California at San Diego, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Environmental Defense Fund, Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University and other institutions.
Two CIA spokespeople gave Mother Jones conflicting answers about the agency's role in the research. One confirmed that the CIA was involved in the project, while the other would not confirm it but said "It's natural that on a subject like climate change the agency would work with scientists to better understand the phenomenon and its implications on national security." The CIA formerly ran a research center on climate change, which notably closed last year after Republican politicians said the intelligence agency should not be involved in researching climate change.
As you might guess from the project's fairly small budget, the committee isn't doing primary research or developing new technologies. Instead, they are reviewing the available published science on these subjects. An NAS spokesperson told NBC News that the project is "an assessment of the science — what do we know, what do we not know, what are the risks based on what we know and don't know right now." Meanwhile, NAS project leader Edward Dunlea told Fox News that despite the closed-door nature of the first two committee meetings the research is not classified. "We're doing an evaluation," he said. "This is an assessment of what is known in the science literature about some of the proposed engineering techniques — both solar-radiation management and carbon-dioxide removal."
According to Mother Jones the NAS funded two previous workshops on geoengineering. This is the first time that the CIA has participated.
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