Bill Gates Funding Venture That Hopes To Spray Dust Into Atmosphere To Block Sun
Bill Gates is hoping to help tackle climate change by funding a venture that looks to spray dust into the atmosphere to block the sun.
Sitting under a grey British sky it seems baffling that anyone would want to go out of their way to block the sun from reaching the Earth, but as global temperatures continue to rise there’s no denying that drastic action needs to be taken.
While many of Earth’s residents are relying on recycling, veganism and electric cars to help reduce their carbon footprint, Microsoft co-founder Gates is using his wealth to support a different method.
The Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx) is a project launched by Harvard University scientists researching sun-dimming technology that would potentially reflect sunlight out of Earth’s atmosphere, in turn triggering a global cooling effect, Forbes reports.
The method involves spraying a sun-reflecting aerosol made of non-toxic calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dust into the atmosphere in the hopes it would offset the ongoing effects of global warming.
With financial backing from Gates, SCoPEx is set to take a step forward with its research in June, when a balloon carrying scientific equipment will be sent 12 miles (20 km) high with the help of the Swedish Space Corporation.
The launch will not release any aerosols, but will serve as a test to manoeuvre the balloon and examine communications and operational systems.
If the test goes as planned, the scientists could move forward with a second experimental stage that would release a small amount of CaCO3 dust into the atmosphere.
The notion of so-called solar geoengineering has long been a source of controversy, with critics pointing to unpredictable risks such as extreme shifts in weather patterns. Environmentalists also fear that tackling the climate change problem with solar geoengineering could be seen as a solution which dismisses the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Proponents for the idea have cited the global cooling effects of sulfuric ash released in volcanic eruptions as evidence for their argument, with a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, cited by Forbes, suggesting the SCoPEx procedure could lower global temperatures by 1.5°C for no more than $1-10 billion per year.
However, disruption of the global climate could bring unintended consequences. Following the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815, there was a ‘year without a summer’ that resulted in failed crops and near-famine conditions.
David Keith, a professor of applied physics and public policy at Harvard University, has admitted that there are ‘very many real concerns’ in geoengineering as no one knows what will happen until the CaCO3 is released.
Early research on the matter suggests CaCO3 has ‘near-ideal optical properties’ that would allow it to absorb far less radiation than sulfate aerosols, causing significantly less stratospheric heating. Frank Keutsch, the project’s principal investigator, has noted that the perfect aerosol would ‘scatter maximum sunlight and hence cool down the planet’.
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