Harvard University scientists are proposing an experiment that would hopefully lower the effects of global warming. The scientists would fly a balloon above Sweden that would test to see if blocking the sunlight that directly hits Earth would help fight global warming. This first test could happen sometime next year or 2022, and has received backing from Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
This first test, which Harvard University scientists are hoping will happen in June 2021, would only be a test run for the balloon and the instruments that would be used in the experiment. This test would study the chemical reactions in the stratosphere through the balloon, which would be going 10 kilometers above Earth. The project, which is called the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Environment, or SCoPEx, has been funded by private donors, which include Bill Gates.
The ultimate goal is to use the balloon to send reflective particles into the atmosphere with the hope that these would block direct sunlight to Earth and lower the effects of global warming. The funding for the project comes from Harvard University and its Solar Geoengineering Research Program, which is in part funded by Bill Gates, as well as a group of venture capitalists, hedge fund higher-ups, and others with ties to businesses like Google and Hewlett.
If this Bill Gates-funded SCoPEx experiment is successful, it could be a major step in altering the pattern of global warming, however, some are worried that this could give the wrong idea about how to combat global warming. One worry is that altering the amount of sunlight hitting the Earth could change things like weather patterns and plant growth. Another fear is that instead of tackling the larger issues of global warming, this test could be seen as an easy fix.
Instead of solving the rise in emissions, this test is to be seen as a way of slowing the momentum of global warming, while trying to attack the bigger issues at hand. This experiment is relatively small, considering it only costs about 20 million dollars, but could have a major impact on slowing the mounting emissions. For SCoPEx’s funders like Bill Gates, this drop in a bucket could have massive implications for the future of our world.
But if things go well with this Bill Gates-funded project, the goal would be a balloon that would release about 2kg of natural chemicals, such as calcium carbonate and sulfates, into the stratosphere. This releasing of chemicals would create what is called a “perturbed air mass,” which would be about one kilometer long and 100 meters across. Scientists will measure how the chemicals are scattered, and check and see how effective this tool for combating global warming really is.
Yet even if this tactic does work, this plan would have to be utilized throughout the world, and there’s no telling which countries wouldn’t allow for this project, nor how massive the implications on wildlife and plant life would be. Bill Gates has talked extensively about how important getting global warming under control is, so if this project doesn’t work, hopefully, he’ll be willing to help another solution that does.