A test flight for researching ways to cool Earth by blocking sunlight will not take place as planned in Sweden this June, following objections from environmentalists, scientists and Indigenous groups there.
The Swedish Space Corporation said this week it had canceled plans for the flight, in which it would have launched a high-altitude balloon, on behalf of researchers, from its facility in the Arctic. It would have been the first flight of a long-planned experiment called Scopex, a project led by scientists at Harvard University.
The corporation, which is government owned, said it had consulted “with both leading experts on geoengineering and with other stakeholders,” as well as with a Harvard committee that is advising the researchers. The decision not to conduct the test was made in agreement with the Harvard panel, it said.
The advisory committee issued its own statement saying it recommended that any test flights be suspended until it “can make a final recommendation about those flights based on a robust and inclusive public engagement in Sweden.”
Scopex is intended to better understand one form of solar geoengineering: injecting substances into the air to reflect some of the sun’s rays back to space and thus reduce global warming relatively quickly.
Solar geoengineering has long been a subject of intense debate among scientists and policymakers, often seen as a desperate, potentially dangerous measure that could have unintended consequences for regional climates. Even conducting research on the subject has been viewed as harmful in that it could distract society from the goal of reducing emissions of planet-warming gases to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
But there is a growing view among some scientists that, with the world not making nearly enough progress in reducing emissions, research in geoengineering is needed to learn more about how and whether it would work if pressure grew to use the technology. Last month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an influential scientific advisory body, called on the United States to spend at least $100 million on research. [Continue reading…]