Bill Gates, the billionaire, frequently supports research which becomes a popular topic of debates. Bill Gates is now lending support to the controversial research known as solar geoengineering. He had recently endorsed his belief of consuming 100% synthetic beef as well as his conviction that cryptocurrencies are harmful to our planet. Lately he has decided to back the study that intends on combating the Sun.
Gates and some private donors are supporting the Research Program on Solar Geoengineering at Harvard University. The project will soon introduce a new field of study that will examine the effectiveness of preventing sunlight to reach the Earth’s surface.
The influential NASEM (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine) has released a new report during this week. They have requested the government of the United States of America to invest a minimum of $100 million in solar geoengineering research.
An Account Of Solar Geoengineering
Geoengineering is the blanket term used across technologies that attempt on changing the physical qualities of the Earth on large and enduring scales. Some major examples of geoengineering research include ‘cloud seeding’, which allows airplanes to transform the particulate matter present in clouds into rain. Another significant geoengineering technology is ‘carbon capture’ that takes and appropriates emission under the surface of the Earth.
Researchers have formulated several ways of blocking sunlight that is categorized under ‘solar geoengineering’. Utilizing aerosol particles of the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays away from the planet is the most popular method. Nonetheless, this process is considered an outlying idea.
Aerosol particles have a physical structure that factually blocks and distributes light. Consequently, it seems simple but has a more complex reality.
The Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010 had blocked the whole sky of Europe, creating an event of atmospheric aerosol. Any regular substance can easily be aerosolized with the help of accurate conditions and simply float like gas in the clouds.
Why Are Scientists Interested In Solar Geoengineering?
Scientists believe that the lack of concrete consensus and information regarding the relation between aerosols and climate change requires a new study of solar geoengineering. Humankind is facing acute climate change challenges and has no measure to address the issue. As a result, scientists are demanding a big investment in this solar geoengineering study that can possibly bring some answers.
The Gates-backed study intends to conduct small-scale exploratory experiments in the Earth’s atmosphere. SCoPEx is a Perturbation Experiment on implementing Stratospheric Control. This is an upcoming Harvard project that proposes to survey the necessary measures to curb climate change through solar geoengineering.
According to their proposal, the scientists will use high-altitude balloons for lifting required instruments that will help examine the aerosol density and light dissemination. They will also scatter calcium carbonate to study atmospheric chemistry.
Although calcium carbonate is abundant and harmless, the repercussions of releasing ingredients in the stratosphere can be serious and unexpected. Subsequently, SCoPEx researchers will focus on sulphuric acid that is already abundantly present in the stratosphere rather than releasing plentiful carbonates.
NASEM organized a 16 member committee of global science luminaries for their advanced pre-publication report. Chris Field, one of the researchers, informs that this committee is a form of response in understanding the entire range of climate crises. One chapter of the report is dedicated to the role of Bill Gates, other philanthropists, and political decision-makers.
It is too early to decide if this Solar Geoengineering research is beneficial or not. Thus far, the study plans to conduct research instead of taking far-reaching actions. This project will help mankind in exploring the consequences of this radical technology.
Image Credit: Kaspars Grinvalds