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The Effects of Solar Radiation Management on the Carbon Cycle


Purpose of Review

Review existing studies on the carbon cycle impact of different solar geoengineering schemes.

Recent Findings

The effect of solar geoengineering on terrestrial primary productivity is typically much smaller than that of CO2 fertilization. Changes in the partitioning between direct and diffuse radiation in response to stratospheric aerosol injection could substantially alter modeled plant productivity. Inclusion of the nitrogen cycle would further modify the terrestrial response to solar geoengineering. Relative to a high-CO2 world, solar geoengineering, via cooling the surface ocean, would increase CO2 solubility, enhancing oceanic CO2 uptake. However, the effect from geoengineering-induced changes in ocean circulation and marine biology would be more complicated. Solar geoengineering would have a small effect on surface ocean acidification, but could accelerate acidification in the deep ocean. Solar geoengineering would reduce atmospheric CO2, but the relative contribution from the ocean sink and land sink is uncertain.


To date, there are only a few studies on the carbon cycle response to solar geoengineering. Coordinated geoengineering model intercomparison studies are needed to gain a better understanding of the carbon cycle impact of solar geoengineering and feedback on climate change.

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This work is supported by National Key Basic Research Program of China (2015CB953601), National Natural Science Foundation of China (41675063; 41422503; 41276073), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities. I would like to thank Jiujiang for her contribution in making Figs. 1 and Fig. 2.

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Correspondence to Long Cao.

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Cao, L. The Effects of Solar Radiation Management on the Carbon Cycle. Curr Clim Change Rep 4, 41–50 (2018).

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  • Solar geoengineering
  • Global carbon cycle
  • Carbon-climate feedback
  • Ocean acidification
  • Primary production
  • Climate change