Critical studies of the Harvard geoengineering experiment


The basic principle behind solar geoengineering is that by spraying particles on Earth’s surface, humans can direct sunlight back into space to combat climate change.

Harvard researchers hoped to launch a high-tech balloon, attached to a gondola with propellers and sensors, from a base in Tucson, Arizona, next year. After testing the initial equipment, the plan was to use the plane to spray several kilograms of material about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) above the Earth and then fly back into the cloud to measure the particles. ‘ono, how quickly we disperse, etc. changes.

But the original launch didn’t happen the next year, or the next, or the next – not in Tucson, or at the site announced in Sweden. Difficulties with balloon vendors, the outbreak of the covid epidemic, and difficulties in finalizing decisions between the group, its advisory committee, and other parties at Harvard continued to delay the project – and then opposition from environmental groups, the organization of Northern European Indigenous people, and other opponents in the end messed up the team’s plans.

Critics, including some climate scientists, has said that an action that could change the entire climate of the world is too dangerous to study in the real world, because it is too dangerous to use. They fear that the use of such a powerful weapon may lead to unintended and dangerous consequences, and that the nations of the world may not agree to use it safely, justly, and reliably.

These critics believe that even discussing and researching the possibility of climate change reduces the pressure to reduce greenhouse gases and increases the chance that an actor or a single country will one day start pumping materials into the stratosphere without any agreement. A single use of this weapon, with its potentially dangerous consequences in some areas, could bring countries into conflict. to violent conflicts.

A single Harvard experiment, a small balloon, called the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment, or SCoPEx, came to represent all these fears—and, in the end, it was more than the researchers had planned. Last month, ten years later the project was first planned research paperHarvard announced that the project was over, as first report in MIT Technology Review.

“This experiment became the source of the debate about whether solar geoengineering research should go forward,” says Keith. “And, I think, that’s the main reason why Frank and I decided to pull the plug. There’s no way, because of the weight that SCoPEx came to handle, it made sense to move forward.”

I have been writing about solar geoengineering for more than ten years. I filed a report meeting in 2017, and continued to cover the team change plans in the following years. So the cancellation of the project made me wonder why it failed, and what that failure says about the freedom researchers have to investigate such a controversial issue.


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