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The world’s first solar geoengineering experiments are scheduled to begin this year and could have grave consequences for the environment.
The project, run by Harvard professors and scientists David Keith and Frank Keutsch, will take place this spring after a Washington conference involving over one hundred scientists and will be the first in a series of experiments with a view to eventually controlling the climate.
Climate manipulation experiments to begin this year
The experiments will work my mimicking the effects of the major volcanic eruptions in that they essentially fire particles into space that reflect heat away from the planet, lowering temperatures int he atmosphere below.
Initially, a fine mist of sulfur dioxide, alumina, or calcium carbonate particles will be sprayed into the stratosphere above Arizona, and the reflectivity of the particles measures in their effect on the local weather patterns and temperatures.
Initially, if the first series of experiments is a success, then the ultimate aims will be twofold. Firstly there is the possibility of altering the climate to avoid natural disasters, global warming and the like. Secondarily being able to influence the weather in a relatively localized area would have implications for things such as crop growth, and eventually even famine and drought prevention.
There are of course also potential weaponization possibilities for this kind of research. Violent lightning storms or conversely cutting off all rainfall to deprive an enemy of stable conditions are something that various world militaries would undoubtedly be interested in.
Despite the various potential uses for the technology, there are also dangers. The effects of these experiments are very difficult to predict, and could adversely affect the environment they are conducted over in unforeseen ways. Even project leader Frank Keutsch was quoted as admitting as much:
“If you put heat into the stratosphere, it may change how much water gets transported from the troposphere to the stratosphere, and the question is how much are you [creating] a domino effect with all kinds of consequences? What we can do to quantify this is to start with lab studies and try to understand the relevant properties of these aerosols, ”
Similarly, the UN spokesman for environmental change Kevin Trenberth was quoted as saying:
“Cutting incoming solar radiation affects the weather and hydrological cycle. It promotes drought. It destabilizes things and could cause wars. The side effects are many and our models are just not good enough to predict the outcomes”
Given these risks involved, there will likely be a lot of protest to these experiments, especially if there are any adverse effects noticed after the initial trials.
If the experiments are a success and aren’t too damaging to the climate, they could potentially end or counter global warming. If the experiments go badly wrong or adverse effect aren’t noted, a runaway cooling of the earth could potentially happen, leading to an eventual mass extinction.
Although on a much smaller scale the research behind the experiments is based on sound data. Following the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, global temperatures fell by half a degree. Similar effects have been noted with numerous other large eruptions, and on a smaller scale, these kinds of effects could benefit the environment.