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The white-sky thinking of Bill Gates


IF YOU think the ideas of global warming zealots couldn’t get any zanier, there’s one backed by Bill Gates that reaches worrying new heights.  

The plan is to spray chalk dust into the stratosphere so that it forms a fine cloud which will reflect the sun’s rays – a sort of celestial parasol – and (in theory) cool the ground beneath. 

A test is being prepared for June, when a team from Harvard University will reportedly send an unmanned balloon 12 miles up from the European Space Agency’s station near Kiruna in northern Sweden before releasing 4lb of chalk dust. Instruments will measure what happens as the particles spread across the sky.  

The project, called the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment, is said to be costing around £15million and has received financial backing from Gates.  

If the technique was eventually to be used on a large scale, scattering tons of chalk dust across thousands of miles, the daytime skies over the affected areas would probably be white instead of blue.  

Even environmental campaigners are horrified at the idea, part of a wider strategy known as solar geoengineering. They warn that tampering with weather systems on one part of the planet could have unpredictable and possibly disastrous effects elsewhere on Earth.  

Johanna Sandahl, president of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, told the Euronews Living website: ‘It must be stopped. We’re talking about a technology with the potential for extreme consequences that could alter hydrological cycles, disrupt monsoon patterns and increase drought. It stands out as unmanageable and too dangerous to ever be used.’ 

Isadora Wronski, head of Greenpeace Sweden, told the website: ‘It is extremely risky in many ways. If implemented at the scale necessary to have an impact on global temperatures, they could cause inherently unpredictable shocks to the climate system.’  

So far, climate change campaigners have generally confined their machinations to terra firma. I’m no expert on the global warming issue but if someone is going to start spraying stuff into the stratosphere, I think it’s time to be worried. Of all people, these Harvard boffins must know that Earth’s climate is interconnected and when the wind blows, stuff tends to end up far from its place of origin.  

For instance, within 48 hours of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster radiation was detected 683 miles away . . . in Sweden. And everyone with a car knows that sand and dust blown by storms in the Sahara Desert often finds its way to Britain.

The last time I encountered a chalk cloud was when the teacher threw his blackboard duster at us unruly kids in the classroom many years ago. I didn’t like it then and I don’t fancy it drifting across the heavens now.  

As an afterthought, Kiruna is 800 miles from Stockholm, home of the sainted eco-warrior Greta Thunberg. I wonder how she’ll take to the Harvard team’s white-sky thinking.  

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Henry Getley
Henry Getley
Henry Getley is a freelance journalist.

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