Geo-engineering (the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the environment to combat anthropogenic changes in atmospheric chemistry) has long been touted as a way to counteract the catastrophic effects of global warming, but has been considered dangerous by some as it interferes with the world’s delicate ecosystems. However the controversial practice has now received a boost from some of the wealthiest men in the world – including Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The group of billionaires has been funding a small team of leading climate scientists and are lobbying governments and international bodies to back geo-engineering experiments to avoid catastrophic climate change.

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Gates has already worked with NASA on a geo-engineering project that proposes creating a seawater-spraying machine that could prevent climate change by forming clouds that reflect sunlight away from earth. The machines could suck up ten tons of water per second and then spray it over 3,000 feet into the air, increasing the density of clouds. Although the plan would help to mitigate climate change, it would take a large amount of energy to power each individual ship – and a study showed that it would it take 1,900 ships at a cost of over $7 billion to stop Earth’s temperature from rising.

Now it seems Gates and his friends have come up with more plans to try and save the world. Among them is a project that would see the spraying of millions of tonnes of reflective particles of sulphur dioxide 30 miles above Earth. They argue that it would be a “plan B” if the UN and politicians cannot agree to making the necessary cuts in greenhouse gases. However not all scientists agree and several are saying such technology could undermine efforts to reduce emissions. Meanwhile some developing countries fear it could be used as a weapon or by rich countries to their advantage. It is therefore not surprising to learn that there is concern about Gates and his cabal, and that their finances and small but influential group of scientists may have a disproportionate effect on major decisions about geoengineering research and policy.

“We will need to protect ourselves from vested interests [and] be sure that choices are not influenced by parties who might make significant amounts of money through a choice to modify climate, especially using proprietary intellectual property,” said Jane Long, director at large for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US, in a paper delivered to a recent geoengineering conference on ethics.

“The stakes are very high and scientists are not the best people to deal with the social, ethical or political issues that geoengineering raises,” said Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace. “The idea that a self-selected group should have so much influence is bizarre.”

Ironically, Bill Gates recently topped a poll of famous people who the general public would listen to in regards to matters of climate change (beating poor Leonardo DiCaprio).

+ Geo-Engineering Projects

via The Guardian

Image by OnInnovation