Gates intends to spray dust into the atmosphere to block the sun, but what could go wrong?
Billionaire Bill Gates is financially supporting the development of solar eclipse technology that would potentially reflect sunlight from the Earth's atmosphere, causing a global cooling effect. The Stratosphere Controlled Structure Experiment (SCoPEx), initiated by Harvard University scientists, aims to test this solution by spraying non-toxic calcium carbonate (CaCO 3) dust into the atmosphere - an aerosol that reflects the sun and can offset the effects of global warming.
Widespread research into the efficiency of solar geoengineering has been stalled for years due to controversy. Opponents believe that such a science comes with unpredictable risks, including extreme changes in weather patterns not different from the heating trends we are already seeing, writes Forbes.
SCoPEx will take a small step in its early research this June near the town of Kiruna, Sweden, where the Swedish Space Corporation has agreed to help launch a balloon carrying scientific equipment. The launch will not emit any stratospheric aerosols. Rather, it will serve as a test to maneuver the balloon and examine the communication and operating systems. If successful, this could be a step towards a second experimental phase that will release a small amount of CaCO 3 dust into the atmosphere, the Telegraph reports.
David Keith, a professor of applied physics and public policy at Harvard University, recognizes the "many real concerns" of geoengineering.
It is true that no one knows what will happen until CaCO 3 is released and then studied. Keith and other SCoPEx scientists published a paper in 2017 suggesting that dust could actually replenish the ozone layer by reacting with ozone-depleting molecules. "Further research on this and similar methods can lead to reducing risks and improving the efficiency of solar geoengineering methods," write the authors of the paper.
The exact amount of CaCO 3 needed to cool the planet is unknown, and SCoPEx scientists similarly cannot confirm whether it is the best stratospheric aerosol for the job. Early research suggests that the substance has "almost ideal optical properties" that would allow it to absorb much less radiation than sulfated aerosols, causing much less stratospheric heat.
Proponents of geoengineering have cited the global cooling effects of volcanic eruptions coming from the introduction of sulfur ash into the atmosphere. The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia resulted in a "year without a summer", while the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines lowered global average temperatures by 0.5 ° C. The deliberate introduction of similar particles could take decades. of greenhouse gas emissions. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that the SCoPEx procedure could reduce global temperatures by as much as 1.5 ° C by no more than $ 1-10 billion a year.
Again, these temperature drops bring with them serious risks. Freezing temperatures in 1815 led to failed harvests in near-starvation conditions. British scientists have cited stratospheric aerosols from volcanic eruptions in Alaska and Mexico as a possible cause of drought in the African region.
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