Environmentalists have long argued about whether geoengineering (using technology to alter the climate) is a good way to tackle climate change. But the tactic has some heavy hitters on its side, including Bill Gates. The Microsoft founder recently announced plans to invest $300,000 into research at the University of Calgary for unique solutions and responses to climate change. Part of that research included lab tests on machines that suck up seawater and spray it into the air, seeding white clouds that reflect rays of sunlight away from Earth.

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The machines, developed by a San Francisco-based research group called Silver Lining, turn seawater into tiny particles that can be shot up over 3,000 feet in the air. The particles increase the density of clouds by increasing the amount of nuclei contained within. Silver Lining’s floating machines can suck up ten tons of water per second.

If all goes well, Silver Lining plans to test the process with 10 ships spread throughout 3800 square miles of ocean. Even if that goes well, the technology has a long way to go before it can significantly alter the climate — a recent study showed that it would it take 1,900 ships at a cost of over $7 billion to stop Earth’s temperature from rising.

Via UK Times Online