Bill Gates Has A Plan To Block Out The Sun
If you heard that someone had a billion dollars and wanted to block out the sun, you’d probably think that they were some kind of Bond Villain. They’d have diamonds encrusted into their face, live in a fortress on the side of a cliff, and would have a rare genetic skin condition that made them want to take vengeance on the sun. Or they’d be Bill Gates.
Back in a 2010 Ted Talk, Gates spoke about how geoengineering needs to be taken seriously if climate change becomes an otherwise uncontrollable living nightmare. Gates argued that we need to understand it and any potential consequences it might have.
Solar geoengineering is a large-scale effort to reduce the effects of climate change by blocking out the sun (evil cackle). Or rather, it’s sun-dimming technology that would trigger a global cooling effect by reflecting sunlight out of Earth’s atmosphere – without holding the world for ransom. It’s not as far out of left field as it sounds. It occurs naturally when volcanos spew sulfuric ash into the atmosphere. After the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, the cooling effect was so strong the year was dubbed the “year without summer.” Scientists want to release similar particles into the atmosphere deliberately and without blowing anything up.
Gates’s Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research is partially financing Harvard’s Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment, or SCoPEx (which doesn’t make it sound any less Bond villain-y). SCoPEx is a geoengineering project which could lower global temperatures by a full 1.5° C. The whole goal is to understand both the effectiveness and risks of solar geoengineering by finding aerosols that could block out the sun and cool down the planet without killing us all in the process.
A small exploratory experiment was planned for June in the town of Kiruna, Sweden. The plan was to release the sun-reflecting aerosol calcium carbonate (CaCO3), which is akin to chalk dust, into the air. Then, a high-altitude balloon would be launched 12 miles into the atmosphere to monitor the region for changes in aerosol density and atmospheric chemistry.
The experiment was scrapped after receiving a lodge of complaints from both sides of the aisle. It’s risky. Some environmentalists also believe that relying on mitigation as a solution will prevent people from changing their consumption patterns or developing clean technology.
Others think it might lead to extreme shifts in weather patterns, which would defeat the whole point in the first place. After all, stopping climate change is an attempt to curb extreme shifts in weather patterns.
The year without summer led to crop failure and famine. Other volcanic eruptions in Alaska and Mexico are presumed to be the cause of drought in Africa. Mimicking the effects of volcanic eruption is no joke and if something goes, there won’t be any dashing British spies and unfortunately named women to swoop in and save us as the seventh to last second.
For now, it seems as if Gates’s plan to block out the sun is on hold, but if things get dire, who knows where we’ll turn?
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