As TFTP reported last year, it was reported that the top climate change scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received $4 million in funding from Congress along with permission to study two highly controversial geoengineering methods in an attempt to cool the Earth. According to Science Magazine, David Fahey, director of the Chemical Sciences Division of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory, told his staff last week that the federal government is ready to examine the science behind "geoengineering"—or what he dubbed a "Plan B" for climate change.
This plan is in congruence with the plan backed by billionaire Bill Gates in which plans have been made to spray dust into the atmosphere to dim the sun that would potentially reflect sunlight out of Earth’s atmosphere, triggering a global cooling effect.
The Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx), launched by Harvard University scientists, aims to examine this solution by spraying non-toxic calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dust into the atmosphere — a sun-reflecting aerosol that may offset the effects of global warming.
What could possibly go wrong?
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After years of planning, it was announced earlier this year that SCoPEx is about to go live. However, some countries — namely the ones it was going to start in — are having second thoughts.
According to a report out of Forbes Magazine in January, SCoPEx was going to take a small step in its early research this June near the town of Kiruna, Sweden, where the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) has agreed to help launch a balloon carrying scientific equipment 12 miles (20 km) high.
However, that may not take place now as the SSC has decided it may be a bad idea. According to a statement from the SSC, they have decided not to move forward with dimming the sun.
Climate change and its consequences is one of the greatest challenges we face on our planet. Research within this field is therefore important, and many of the experiments that are being conducted onboard balloons and rockets from Esrange Space Center contribute to such research.
To that end, the purpose of the SCoPEx project as such fits well into SSC services and mission to help earth benefit from Space.
However, the scientific community is divided regarding geoengineering, including any related technology tests such as the planned technical balloon test flight from Esrange this summer.
SSC has had dialogues this spring with both leading experts on geo-engineering and with other stakeholders, as well as with the SCoPEx Advisory Board. As a result of these dialogues and in agreement with Harvard, SSC has decided not to conduct the technical test flight planned for this summer.
Whether or not research on geoengineering should be conducted is an important discussion that should continue within the scientific community, as well as with other stakeholders and the general public. SSC welcomes such a broad societal discussion on this important matter.
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As TFT has reported, Harvard announced in July of 2019 that it has created an external advisory panel to examine the potential ethical, environmental and geopolitical impacts of this geoengineering project, which has been developed by the university’s researchers.
The experiment will spray calcium carbonate particles high above the earth to mimic the effects of volcanic ash blocking out the sun to produce a cooling effect. This appears to be the same as NOAA's "Plan B."
Naturally, there are many critics of geoengineering and it is concerning to many people, including environmental groups, who say such efforts are a dangerous distraction from addressing the only permanent solution to climate change: reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Scientist cite several volcanic eruptions in the past which led to global cooling, but that had devastating effects on other parts of the world.
David Keith, a professor of applied physics and public policy at Harvard University, recognizes the “very many real concerns” of geoengineering, according to Forbes. To offset these risks he has proposed the creation of a "risk pool" to collect funds for the risks associated with playing mother nature — up to and including cooling an area so much that inhabitants are unable to grow food.
As Forbes reports:
Again, these temperature decreases bring with them serious risks. Freezing temperatures in 1815 led to failed crops in near-famine conditions. British scientists have cited stratospheric aerosols from volcanic eruptions in Alaska and Mexico as the potential cause of drought in Africa’s Sahel region. Major disruption of the global climate could bring unintended consequences, negatively impacting highly populated regions and engineering another refugee crisis.
David Keith has proposed the creation of a “risk pool” to compensate smaller nations for collateral damage caused by such tests, but such a payout might be little comfort to those displaced by unlivable conditions.
Indeed. No amount of money would compensate for a family losing all of their land to freezing temperatures and being forced to relocate to another country. But these are some of the risks involved in weather modification.
This is likely one of the reasons Sweden decided to pull out of the tests.
To be clear, no one here is claiming to be an expert on climate change or the effects of geoengineering. But one thing is clear and it's the fact that there is still much to be debated and learned before humans deliberately begin altering Earth's climate. Aside from doing nothing to curb carbon emissions, if we are so quick to jump on this method, it could set off a chain reaction that could prove to be catastrophic.