Why The Bill Gates Is Funding The Solar Geo Engineering Research

               
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             Why The Bill Gates Is Funding The Solar GeoEngineering Research


The record-number of fires burning across Brazil's Amazon rainforest has prompted a renewed global outcry over climate change and big spending.Five million dollars from Leonardo DiCaprio 10 million pounds from theU.K. Meanwhile Bill Gates is backing the first high-altitude experimentof one radical climate change solution creating a massive chemical cloudthat could cool the earth. Its called solar geoengineering and itshighly controversial.

How long will it be that countries keep experiencing this climate impacts before someone gets desperate and says hey we need to cool the planet with solar geoengineering?

It would look something like this: thousands of planes would fly very highand use nozzles to inject millions of tons of light-reflecting particlesinto the stratosphere. It would create a thin chemical cloud of thoseparticles around the whole planet blocking some sunlight from reachingthe surface. It would mimic a giant volcanic eruption that we know coolsthe earth.

Back in 1991, Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines.It was the largest eruption to affect a densely populated area creatingavalanches and giant mud flows that left more than 700 dead and 30000homeless. It also spewed a cloud of 20 million tons of sulfur dioxideparticles into the stratosphere.That chemical cloud was hundreds of miles across and reflected about 2% ofsunlight back to space.And in 1992 the earth was cooler than in 1991.

That is part of the mechanism.But you do this in a controlled way.Modeling studies have found that it could reduce the intensity of heatwaves for instance.Apparently, it could reduce the rate of sea-level rise.It could reduce the intensity of tropical storms.But it also comes with significant risks and uncertainties.Things like mass famine mass flooding drought of kinds that will affectvery large populations.It could weaken monsoons in India China and Africa enough to affectcrops. It could eradicate the blue sky.You start increasing the amount of diffused light and you have less directlight which is the same thing as saying it looks hazy and white.And if the global community decides it should stop?

So you stop injecting it and after a year the cloud is gone and you getthis rapid warming at a rate much faster than you would get if we had donenothing. If you've taken out the greenhouse gases that are adding to thewarming then the temperature won't go up and stay what it is.So if we dont stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere wedont try as hard as we can to do that then theres no point in doingsolar geoengineering.A 2016 opinion poll conducted by the Harvard group doing solargeoengineering research found that 67 % of subjects support its use.

One reason this technology is appealing its cheap.One study estimates it would cost an average of $2.25billion globally every year for the first 15 years of deployment.Compare that to the half a trillion dollars the U.S.government estimates it will cost just the U.S.by 2100 if no action is taken against climate change or the $1.6 to $3.8 trillion projected global spending by 2050 on low-carbon energy production. You can also compare it to direct air carbon capturinganother climate change solution backed by Bill Gates and by big oil.It involves sucking billions of tons of carbon out of the air and at$100-$200 a ton it could be big business.Solar geoengineering, on the other hand, is so cheap that nobody currently stands to make money from the process.But just because a solution is cheap doesn't make it a good one.

It is cheap and dangerous.It doesnt require a lot of materials.It doesnt require a big innovation.It basically affects the whole planet with one project.So that is not necessarily a situation that has a lot of profitopportunity right?Because theres not gonna be a lot of different people that can do it andcompete in a marketplace.Bill Gates is among a dozen individual donors and 14 foundations backingthe first stratospheric solar geoengineering experiment out of Harvard.Its called Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment or SCoPEx.

A high-altitude balloon will lift instruments about 20 kilometers into the stratosphere where it will release less than two kilograms of different naturally occurring chemicals like calcium carbonate and sulfates and then measure the change in atmospheric chemistry and light scattering.The Harvard group that runs SCoPEx and other experiments has raised morethan 16 million dollars more than double any other solar geoengineeringeffort.

And annual global funding has gone up from $1 million in 2008 to$8 million in 2018 with the majority of that funding coming from the U.S.The first phase of SCoPEx will cost around $3 million with much moreneeded for wider research on solar geoengineering.To this point, stratosphere injections have only been tested with climate modeling. In the U.K.a government-funded solar radiation management test called SPICE wascancelled in 2012 because of issues with patents.And were not trying to develop any technology that is patented or wherewe want to make money with this later on.A study last year found that no existing aircraft can inject thestratosphere at a high enough altitude.But developing a new high-altitude tanker would not be technologicallydifficult or prohibitively expensive.

Nozzles still need to be designed that can continuously blast outtrillions of particles. And scientists still need to decide what chemicalsthose particles should be made of.But unlike cloud brightening which is another solar reflection techniquethe tech needed for stratospheric injections is not far off.The technology is not the main thing thats holding this back.The main thing thats holding it back is the uncertainty about what the exact effects would be and the positives and negatives of its effects and the governance and decision-making process for implementing it.Other radical attempts to control climate change have been tested in thepast. Like when one California businessman dumped 100 tons of iron dust inthe Pacific to spawn the growth of carbon-absorbing plankton.But unlike small sometimes rogue experiments planet-wide solargeoengineering will require buy-in from the international community.

You know in our simulations we found China got warmer and drier relativeto the past when you stabilize global temperature and India was now coolerand wetter. So you can see there how you know international relationsaround using this technology could become complicated.I mean we cant even decide on what to do about emissions of greenhousegases. And so how are we going to decide on setting the planetarythermostat?

Theres this real concern that we wont be able to reach an agreement webeing the entire planet.And so theres the prospect that countries just go ahead and do solargeoengineering. And that causes disagreement conflict tension evenpossibly war.Three years ago the international community did come together when almost200 countries signed the Paris Agreement on climate change agreeing on to limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius.Since then President Trump has stated his intent to withdraw from theagreement.

The Paris Climate accord is simply the latest example of Washingtonentering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States.And global emissions are not being reduced fast enough to reach thesegoals.We know what we should be doing.What we should be doing is reducing carbon emissions.So were creating a moral hazard.We are providing an out for you where you can say well Im going to fixthis technologically instead of doing the ethically right thing to do.Its way too early to give up on much more ethical approaches to climatechange.


If future generations were literally in the room to question us onour dubious arguments we wouldnt get far with some of the kinds ofarguments were trying to offer for neglecting conventional climate policyand going down this path.For now the failure to rapidly reduce emissions has prompted moreexploration of alternative solutions like carbon dioxide removal and solargeoengineering. But scientists warn we will still need to reduceemissions too.If you were not cutting CO2 emissions at the same time from my perspectivethere is little point in doing this because you would have to start usingever increasing amounts.No responsible scientist says that its a silver bullet.All the responsible scientists say this is something that we deploy if wehad to alongside all the other stuff that we already have to do.The U.S. Academies of Sciences is holding a series of meetings to studysolar geoengineering including one at Stanford this month.


The committee will issue a report next year with recommendations for howor if solar geoengineering research should continue.Some scientists say the research is necessary in order to arm futuregenerations with the ability to enact this backup plan even though itseems nearly impossible now.We ought to start working on this solar climate engineering problem rightnow with as much urgency as we can so that if we want to deploy it in adecade or so we understand what we have to do.This is a real moral horror especially in a situation where were notdoing all the things that we could be doing to minimize the risks ofclimate catastrophe now.


But experts do agree that more public awareness is needed around solargeoengineering because within a couple decades for better or worse itcould be part of the solution helping return the planet to pre-industrialtemperatures. Modeling evidence gathered over the last decade has pretty consistentlyfound that a moderate amount of solar geoengineering could significantlyreduce many of the impacts of climate change. But it cant be a solution because it doesnt return the climate systemback to how it was. It doesnt do anything about things like oceanacidification. So whatever happens weve got to cut our CO2 to zero. So right now we need more research to understand this better and broader conversation so that all of the nations of the world have a seat at the table when this is discussed.

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