Sweden’s space agency has called off a geoengineering experiment to determine whether blotting out the sun with aerosols could reverse global warming. Funded by Bill Gates, the project stoked fierce opposition from eco groups.
Proposed by researchers at Harvard University, the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment, or SCoPEx, ultimately planned to release a cloud of calcium carbonate – more commonly known as chalk dust – into the atmosphere from a high-altitude balloon to study its effects on sunlight reaching Earth. The project proved too controversial, however, and on Wednesday the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) said that a test flight set for June would not move forward.
“The scientific community is divided regarding geoengineering, including any related technology tests such as the planned technical balloon test flight from Esrange this summer,” the SSC said in a statement on Wednesday.
SSC has had dialogues this spring with both leading experts on geoengineering and with other stakeholders, as well as with the SCoPEx Advisory Board. As a result of these dialogues and in agreement with Harvard, SSC has decided not to conduct the technical test flight planned for this summer.
Asked at a 2010 TED talk about what “emergency measures” mankind could implement to fight climate change should all else fail, Gates suggested solar geoengineering could be an “insurance policy.”
“There is a line of research on what’s called geoengineering, which are various techniques that would delay the heating to buy us 20 or 30 years to get our act together. Now that’s just an insurance policy, you hope that you don’t need to do that,” he said, adding that the idea might be “kept in the back pocket.”