Over the past few years, talk of climate change has slowly turned into talk about geo engineering. Not as a way of succumbing to the inevitable (a warming planet based on rising consumption of fossil fuels) but as an impetus to innovation. That is, advancing our technology to meet future challenges, be they climate related or an area entirely different.
One of our favorite projects is one from the University of Bristol in the UK called the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering. Or you may know it by it’s fantastic acronykname, SPICE.
Researchers have prepared trials on a massive system to pump water 1 kilometer (a little more than half a mile) into the atmosphere through a narrow tube connecting to a massive balloon. The water doesn’t actually do anything. But it is testing whether a substance could reasonably be pumped that high. If it works, researchers say, the H2O could one day be swapped with sulfate aerosols, which would create a pair of sunglasses for the planet and help offset the greenhouse effect.
There are loads of other ideas – pumping other things into the atmosphere, building levees around major cities, etc – which we’ll save for future posts. But for now, even the water tube idea isn’t getting too far. Opposition to the idea in England has hit fever pitch. Some companies, including ETC Group, a Canadian nonprofit, have said the project wasn’t considered with due diligence. And considering its great cost (so far unreported) other opponents say there should be an international agreement on geoengineering so that one country’s progress in curtailing the greenhouse effect – say, England – isn’t undercut by another out-of control polluter. Looking at you, China.
A reasonable goal, perhaps. But also innovatively lazy. Waiting for an international agreement on ANYthing is often a futile exercise. And anything related to climate will take even longer. We here at Spinach HQ won’t comment on the merits of this specific project. We don’t, after all, know the specifics, or the chances for success or the potential conflicts. But we will say that if the only argument is “stop the research because there’s not yet an international agreement,” well, that strikes us as a cop out. Trying to answer important research questions is what we humble humans have always done. And almost always worth the expense.