Take a soccer stadium-size helium balloon, 12 miles of garden hose and cross your fingers for slowing global warming. Sound crazy? A team of British scientists could soon be doing just this to test the affect of pumping particles into the stratosphere, to the dismay of other environmental groups.
According to Popular Science, this attempt at geo-engineering is "audacious" and "very well might not work." Popular Science has more on how some Brits think this will work:
The idea is to mimic the effect that volcanoes have when they erupt, pumping all kinds of particulate matter into the stratosphere that helps reflect solar radiation back into space. And while using a balloon and a long stretch of hose to create an artificial volcano may sound a bit “mad scientist,” the UK government is on board, putting more than $2.5 million behind the project. The Royal Society is backing this.
Others groups think deployment of this full-scale technology could be dangerous to weather systems that affect rainfall and farming. The Guardian reports:
"What is being floated is not only a hose but the whole idea of geo-engineering the planet. This is a huge waste of time and money and shows the UK government's disregard for UN processes. It is the first step in readying the hardware to inject particles into the stratosphere. It has no other purpose and it should not be allowed to go ahead," said Pat Mooney, chair of ETC Group in Canada, an NGO that supports socially responsible development of technology.
Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth UK, said: "We are going to have to look at new technologies which could suck CO2 out of the air. But we don't need to do is invest in harebrained schemes to reflect sunlight into space when we have no idea at all what impact this may have on weather systems around the globe."
The Guardian says that the researchers of the Stratospheric particle injection for climate engineering (Spice) project plan to formally announce their plans to test this method next month.
Before the full-sized system can be deployed, the research team will test a scaled-down version of the balloon-and-hose design.
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The team will send a balloon to a height of 1km over an undisclosed location. It will pump nothing more than water into the air, but it will allow climate scientists and engineers to gauge the engineering feasibility of the plan. Ultimately, they aim to test the impact of sulphates and other aerosol particles if they are sprayed directly into the stratosphere.
Popular Science sums things up nicely: "But seriously, spewing chemical particulates into our atmosphere in an attempt to artificially mimic one of mother nature’s most destructive and far-reaching devices -- what could possibly go wrong?"
Although, the idea of volcanoes slowing global warming isn't new. The Washington Post reported a study in July that attributed part of the reduced rate of global warming in the last decade to minor volcanic eruptions that have increased particular matter in the atmosphere.