ABC: Why are there No Large Scale Geo-engineering Experiments?

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Solar Geoengineering
According to a 2018 study, any benefits of solar geoengineering would be cancelled by the harm caused to plants by reduced sunlight.

Climate scientists are frustrated that nobody is attempting large scale geo-engineering experiments, despite admitting that a successful attempt to geo-engineer the global climate could trigger a nuclear war.

Saviour or scientific hubris? Geoengineering the planet to counter climate change

ABC Radio National / 
By Antony Funnell for Future Tense

The eruption of Mt Pinatubo changed everything.

As the top of the mountain disintegrated, a dense plume of ash and gas surged 35 kilometres into the air.

The resulting cloud of sulphur-dioxide and muck covered the Philippines and soon began spreading.

It was 1991, and by some estimates more than five cubic kilometres of volcanic material was pumped into the stratosphere, including around 10 billion tonnes of sulphur.

Local weather patterns were temporarily altered, and the temperature of the planet dipped by 0.5 degrees Celsius over the next two years.

By 2010 a large number of “geoengineering” experiments were under consideration — but now major experimentation appears to have stalled.

Climatologist Alan Robock of Rutgers University says people started asking ‘What’s the worst thing that could happen?

“The answer was global nuclear war,” he tells ABC RN’s Future Tense.

“Because if one country did something that they thought would help them and it was harmful to another country, they might be quite upset.”

Read more:

While climate scientists were busy getting excited by the impact Mount Pinatubo had on global temperature, other scientists noticed another, far more sinister impact of the eruption.

Estimating global agricultural effects of geoengineering using volcanic eruptions

Published: 08 August 2018

Jonathan Proctor, Solomon Hsiang, Jennifer Burney, Marshall Burke & Wolfram Schlenker

Nature (2018)

Solar radiation management is increasingly considered to be an option for managing global temperatures, yet the economic effects of ameliorating climatic changes by scattering sunlight back to space remain largely unknown. Although solar radiation management may increase crop yields by reducing heat stress, the effects of concomitant changes in available sunlight have never been empirically estimated. Here we use the volcanic eruptions that inspired modern solar radiation management proposals as natural experiments to provide the first estimates, to our knowledge, of how the stratospheric sulfate aerosols created by the eruptions of El Chichón and Mount Pinatubo altered the quantity and quality of global sunlight, and how these changes in sunlight affected global crop yields. We find that the sunlight-mediated effect of stratospheric sulfate aerosols on yields is negative for both C4 (maize) and C3 (soy, rice and wheat) crops. Applying our yield model to a solar radiation management scenario based on stratospheric sulfate aerosols, we find that projected mid-twenty-first century damages due to scattering sunlight caused by solar radiation management are roughly equal in magnitude to benefits from cooling. This suggests that solar radiation management—if deployed using stratospheric sulfate aerosols similar to those emitted by the volcanic eruptions it seeks to mimic—would, on net, attenuate little of the global agricultural damage from climate change. Our approach could be extended to study the effects of solar radiation management on other global systems, such as human health or ecosystem function.

Read more:

Turns out plants need sunlight. Reflecting sunlight back into space instead of letting it reach the leaves of plants is bad for plant growth.

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August 27, 2020 2:08 pm

The Law of Unintended Consequences. And because the consequences will likely show up under someone else’s watch, politicians cannot fathom it.

Reply to  kenw
August 28, 2020 8:25 am

So manage sunlight in places where it isn’t harmful.

Over deserts, ocean deserts, places with excess sunlight.

Reply to  vboring
August 29, 2020 6:53 am

Wonderful idea, managing sunlight! Along w/wealth-redistribution, now practice fair sunlight-redistribution.

August 27, 2020 2:12 pm

“While climate scientists were busy getting excited by the impact Mount Pinatubo had on global temperature, other scientists noticed another, far more sinister impact of the eruption.”

s/b: “While climate scientists were busy getting excited by the impact Mount Pinatubo had on global temperature, ACTUAL scientists noticed another, far more sinister impact of the eruption.

fixed it for you….

Joel O'Bryan
August 27, 2020 2:13 pm

Calls for Geo-engineering are just another rent-seeking scheme. Who doesn’t love spending OPM?

Andy Pattullo
August 27, 2020 2:16 pm

Why are people who are convinced every impact of humans on the Earth is negative, also the ones asking humans to try even harder to have an impact on climate? Are we running out of reason and logic or is it just that the people who are totally out to lunch are the loudest voices?

Reply to  Andy Pattullo
August 27, 2020 2:33 pm

Andy, said, “…or is it just that the people who are totally out to lunch are the loudest voices?”


Stay safe and healthy, all.

Bill Powers
Reply to  Andy Pattullo
August 28, 2020 6:23 am

They have The Propaganda Ministry backing. The radically left wing media control 90% of the message board. The NYTimes coordinates the daily news cycle and TV and Social Media follow their lead. The radical mouthpieces such as CNN and MSNBC, VOX, Media Matters spend half their time disseminating misinformation and the other half denigrating the other 10% of the message board, the voices of reason and logic, attempting to disseminate the truth

August 27, 2020 2:25 pm

No need to “experiment” their been geoengineering for decades. Being able to make it rain or create drought is a great economic tool.
” Environmental modification techniques have been available to the US military for more than half a century”

Reply to  jmorpuss
August 28, 2020 6:30 am

good on ya i had a page saved from GR years ago proving it with gov docs but nooo it was tinfoil hat time
well no, but peopl e have such blind fith trust that their govt has their interests at heart
bullshit they do.
populace is just collateral damage to many of them

August 27, 2020 2:40 pm

So the Russians are not particularly fussed about having more snow and ice, and they have nukes.

Bruce Cobb
August 27, 2020 2:48 pm

Our addition of CO2, while unintentional has caused greening of the planet. The planet called, and said we don’t need to do any more geoengineering other than adding more CO2, thanks.

Mark Pawelek
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
August 27, 2020 5:18 pm

We could add a little iron to the ocean in places. It will allow plankton to bloom in barren ocean areas, feed the fish.

I think there’s an international treaty banning this.

August 27, 2020 2:48 pm

There was an experiment in 1962 in the Pacific which instantly reversed rise in the PDO

Reply to  Vuk
August 27, 2020 3:04 pm

Since the two NASA links are not working, some of details can be found here:

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Vuk
August 27, 2020 4:46 pm

The 400km altitude Starfish Prime 1.4 Mt detonation injected a massive belt of electrons into LEO. Over the next 12 months, a half dozen early satellites winked-out and went dead after their electronics were fried by running though that low orbit MeV electron radiation belt.

“The Starfish Prime radiation belt had, by far, the greatest intensity and duration of any of the artificial radiation belts.

The Starfish Prime radiation belt damaged the United Kingdom Satellite Ariel 1 and the United States satellites, Traac, Transit 4B, Injun I and Telstar I. It also damaged the Soviet satellite Cosmos V. All of these satellites failed completely within several months of the Starfish detonation.

Telstar I lasted the longest of the satellites damaged by the Starfish Prime radiation, with its complete failure occurring on February 21, 1963.

The problem of a “Reversing the PDO” would be the least of our problems related to disabling MeV electron belt for our modern age of increasing LEO satellite dependence.

August 27, 2020 3:00 pm

Funny, I thought you needed a falsifiable theory in order to design an experiment. I also thought you needed to prove the theory repeatedly before you got down to engineering.
It turns out that we don’t need any of that if we give up all property and prosperity and just starve 90% of the world population. Presumably the 10% or so remaining wouldn’t really care much about theory.
Which scientists were those, again?

Reply to  d
August 28, 2020 4:11 pm

‘Experiment’ can be defined otherwise … just to test to see what happens.

I can drop a brick off of the overpass, out of curiosity, just to see what happens. These guys might be the ‘drop the brick’ type of experimenters.

August 27, 2020 3:23 pm

Hi Vuk
A while ago you published a chart over lapping SC 24 as it is bottoming, with the bottom of SC 23.
I looked good.
Can you update it?

August 27, 2020 3:31 pm

It looked good

Reply to  Bob Hoye
August 27, 2020 4:34 pm

Fraudian slip anyone?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Hivemind
August 27, 2020 9:13 pm

Did Freud wear a slip?

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
August 27, 2020 10:52 pm

He secretly wore his Mother’s slip. Freud was a bit queer.

Reply to  Bob Hoye
August 28, 2020 1:19 am

Hi Bob, here it is (updated for August 27/31)

Reply to  Vuk
August 28, 2020 1:56 am


The coincidence of the spikes between SC24min (red) in Sept 2017 and the SC14min (green) track overlay for Sept 1910 is remarkable. There appears to be a developing lag between the two curves that might suggest the recovery from SC24min will take longer to happen.

August 27, 2020 3:39 pm

I have no idea why these people who want to change the world don’t do something useful and first test their ideas by altering the climate of either Venus or Mars

Steve Case
August 27, 2020 3:41 pm

“ABC: Why are there No Large Scale Geo-engineering Experiments?”

Because that would be really really stupid!!!!!

Flight Level
Reply to  Steve Case
August 27, 2020 8:24 pm

Ah, the chemtrails… Ooops.

Reply to  Steve Case
August 28, 2020 1:51 am

“Because that would be really really stupid!!!!!”

That’s surely a recommendation for them!

Tim Gorman
August 27, 2020 3:49 pm

” attenuate little of the global agricultural damage from climate change.”

What global agricultural damage from climate change. For the past 20 years we have seen continual global record harvests of C3 and C4. We have yet to see *any* indication of any kind of downward trend in harvests.

Do these scientists *ever* look at actual harvest totals? Or do they just take it as truth when the climate alarmists say we are seeing continued crop damage?

Michael S. Kelly
August 27, 2020 4:05 pm

“…by some estimates more than five cubic kilometres of volcanic material was pumped into the stratosphere, including around 10 billion tonnes of sulphur.”

Assuming that the author means 10 billion tonnes of sulfur dioxide, we would have our work cut out for us to emulate Pinatubo. According to NASA/SEDAC (, humanity’s total sulfur dioxide emissions from 1850 to 2005 amounted to about 8.5 billion tonnes.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
August 28, 2020 8:57 am

“humanity’s total sulfur dioxide emissions from 1850 to 2005 amounted to about 8.5 billion tonnes.”

Even if humanity could inject all that sulfur dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere at one time, the 0.5C temperatue reduction would only last about two years, as was the case with the volcanic eruptions.

It looks to me like injecting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere as a means of climate control is a fantasy. Humans could not accomplish this task to the degree required, and it would be ineffectual if they could.

A nutty idea aimed at fixing another nutty idea: The idea that humans are causing the Earth’s climate to change by burning fossil fuels. There is no evidence this is the case, yet the alarmists want to fix it anyway.

The first thing to do is figure out whether Catastrophic Human-caused Climate Chnage is real or not. The alarmists are putting the cart before the horse and are trying to fix a problem that has not been established to be a problem.

Decades of CAGW doomsaying based on nothing but speculation. What a sorry state Climate Science is in.

Robert of Texaas
Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 28, 2020 11:28 am

Yes, but my dense grey clay yard needs some sulfur on it, so I am encouraging them to try this experiment.

August 27, 2020 4:18 pm

There are other large-scale projects to consider. The Salton Sea — an accident — shows what could be done in North Africa or South Australia to create new basins of water via canals between the existing oceans and near-coastal, below sea-level, deserts. These would serve to (a) lower overall sea levels (b) increase surface albedo, (c) increase clouds and rain in desert parts of the continents and (d) create new “beach front” for rich celebrities to enjoy. NONE of these projects would reduce sunlight to plants in other locations.

We could build pumps to circulate surface waters to the deeper oceans, exchanging heat for sunken nutrients. Some proposals also extract minerals — or even collect rather than spend energy by circulating freon between warm and cool layers of ocean.

Some such geo-level projects could be piloted on city-size scales. See what happens, then back off or scale way up.

Could be VERY cool, if you like science-y stuff and don’t deny the possibilities just because of political prejudices.

Curious George
Reply to  pouncer
August 27, 2020 6:06 pm

My proposal would be to flood the Danakil Depression (100 m below sea level) in Ethiopia with sea water. The water would have to flow through Eritrea via a 50 km tunnel. Plenty of power could be generated, and local climate would likely change for better. But the countries would have to cooperate. I see young Eritrean refugees playing basketball in my city.

Kevin kilty
August 27, 2020 4:20 pm

Does pitching m0r0ns into a volcano count as geoengineering?

August 27, 2020 4:25 pm

Just remember that these are the same creeps that wanted to spray soot all over the north polar region to avert the next ice age in the 1970s.

Mike McHenry
August 27, 2020 4:32 pm

Greening the Sahara with nuclear desalination plants seem like the way to go. Lets take advantage of all that extra CO2 . How can anyone complain about that. This will also control CO2 growth

Reply to  Mike McHenry
August 27, 2020 5:09 pm

“Greening the Sahara with nuclear desalination plants seem like the way to go.”
The way the weather is shaping up in north Africa this August we may not even have to bother to do that.;2.8;5&l=rain-3h&t=20200831/1800

Curious George
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
August 27, 2020 5:41 pm

Up to 0.08 inch of rain? Hooray!

Reply to  Curious George
August 27, 2020 6:34 pm

Every little helps 🙂

Reply to  Curious George
August 27, 2020 7:11 pm

Curious George,
On a serious note, this is the West African Monsoon crossing the Sahara again, It was flagged last month and is an important climate signal in the ongoing cycle of meridional weather we can expect for the next 30 years. Here is the expected daily sequence:-
Friday 28th;2.8;5&l=rain-3h&t=20200828/1800
Sat 29th;2.8;5&l=rain-3h&t=20200829/1800
1st Sept;2.8;5&l=rain-3h&t=20200901/1800

Reply to  Philip Mulholland
August 28, 2020 2:28 pm
August 27, 2020 4:46 pm

The reason there are no large scale geo-engineering projects is because the moment you actually start to do science the “global warming climate change” goes away.

It’s JUST bad excel spreadsheets with fake data, no science has been done. We don’t even know whether CO2 has an effect above 185°K in an actual atmosphere because nobody’s built a 300 foot tall bubble to study it.

What you see in the IPCC is all “goatmilk causes cancer” and “Med. people live longer because wine” bullshit correlation except the “correlation” is so bad they have to falsify inputs and add imaginary data.

Zero science has been done, that’s why they have to pump out catastrophe articles with specious headlines to keep the attention of the global fraction of small-cock… er Chicken Littles.

August 27, 2020 4:47 pm

oh my god… blocking sunlight won’t reduce IR gain

that’s like thinking that putting up chainlink nets will stop rockfalls

Gary Pearse
August 27, 2020 5:24 pm

The big thrust and hysteria for geoengineering and for massive policy intrusion to overturn economies is not to solve a global warming crisis some time in the future. These are poker player ‘tells’. With climate models running 300% too hot (the Canadian one 700% too hot! They are much farther left than Democrats.) compared to observations 30yrs later, plus an unexpected 18yr pause in Global Warming, etc, activist climate is beginning to suspect and fear that there may not be a crisis coming after all.

Getting policy or geo set up before 2030, they think they can then claim their actions saved the planet from certain destruction in the nick of time. The news they don’t assimilate is that it is all too late anyway. We will be inexorably doing the big CO2 experiment right up to the worst case scenario. A new coal-fired plant per week is coming on stream in Asia and Africa and the the puny West could shut everything down and not turn the tide. Coal plants are shutting in the US and Australia but their coal is just going to be burned by somebody else. The rise out of poverty will also fuel multiples of Western cement plants. Over the next few years, it will be interesting to see who are the smart ones who take their cues from Lovelock, Schellenberger and Michael Moore and abandon the lost cause.

August 27, 2020 5:46 pm

The stupidity of these folks is astounding. They are practically looking at the emergence of SMR molten salt Gen 4 nuclear reactors, which would solve ALL of their problems, such as they think they are, and actually be cost beneficial replacements of ALL forms of power generation,incluidng most fossil generators. And they are load following – i.e. they can ramp output up and down rapidly and require little peak load generators.

Curious George
Reply to  ColMosby
August 27, 2020 7:33 pm


Reply to  ColMosby
August 27, 2020 8:05 pm

It’s not about science. It’s not even about economics. It’s all about the generation and use of power.
Trouble is that’s political power in all of its most raw and brutal manifestation.

Doug Huffman
Reply to  ColMosby
August 28, 2020 4:36 am

Derp derp derp. Vapor ware.

USN NPP PWR have ~7000 reactor-years of safe operation.

August 27, 2020 7:32 pm

40 years in neuroscience has taught me that things a complicated. Political solutions to poorly understrood problems is the last word in DISASTER.

Craig from Oz
August 27, 2020 8:06 pm

Also of note is the knee jerk reaction to any perceived geo-political problem:

It will cause nuclear war!

Which reminds me, what happened to the war with North Korea we were all promised back in late 2016?

John F Hultquist
August 27, 2020 8:08 pm

The eruption of Mt Pinatubo changed everything.

The next several paragraphs explain that nothing has happened.
Comments are more interesting than the memo.

Maggy Wassilieff
August 27, 2020 8:20 pm

Funny… we don’t hear much about our Leading Scientists in NZ dumping Iron into the Southern Oceans anymore…

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Maggy Wassilieff
August 28, 2020 4:11 pm

That was my first thought, as well. Iron fertilization has “outraged” certain scientists, indicating to me that it might be a very practical and beneficial way to keep CO2 levels stable, while rebuilding the ocean food chain. There is an international moratorium on any but research fertilization activities. (Which is probably a good thing.)

August 28, 2020 2:03 am

It seems the much love “precautionary principle” flys out the window when some rabid greenies see fit to tinker with our environment. The level of their arrogance is quite spectacular.

August 28, 2020 2:41 am

I am coming slowly to the very, very reluctant conclusion that the only hope for the continued well being of most people on the planet is China. The sheer stupidity of western politicians , media and scientists of dubious intelligence on virtually any subject from pandemics to climate change is responsible for this change of mind towards China.
I wonder if I am alone in this .

Doug Huffman
August 28, 2020 4:33 am

Geo-engineering? Experiments fail and big experiments fail biggly! Beware the Black Swan.

Who bears the liability for the consequences of failure?

Reply to  Doug Huffman
August 28, 2020 4:40 am


For large scale geoengineering a nascent intelligent species is first required to practice off-planet.
That is what the Moon is for (I am with Isaac Asimov on this one).
Go and obtain proof of concept there first.

Doug Huffman
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
August 28, 2020 5:05 am

So you make no effort to avoid teleological arguments. Mankind will not leave Earth for pouring essential wealth into the Black Hole of egalitarianism. Men may, but mankind will not leave Earth – ever.

The hopes and dreams of hard science fiction are cultural privilege and its priests are all dead.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
August 28, 2020 5:30 am

Two men looked thru prison bars, one saw mud the other saw stars.

August 28, 2020 6:39 am

100 tons of Iron Sulfate was dumped into the pacific ocean to boost salmon production
and resulted in a record salmon run .

looks like geoengineering to me

August 28, 2020 7:43 am

Does this count as geoengineering?

Russ George rejuvenated the Pacific salmon fisheries by fertilizing the ocean with iron sulfate. His experiment made a lot of people furious, mostly the sort of folks who are terrified by the idea of anyone doing anything at all without government or at least IRB review and approval. Here’s an article about his experiment, by a guy who hated the idea, but grudgingly admitted its success:

The only downside of the experiment is that fertilizing the ocean with iron consumes quite a bit of the precious air fertilizer.

This is Russ George’s web site:

August 28, 2020 7:50 am

Large-scale geoengineering “what’s the worst that could happen?”, and their answer is “nuclear war”?

That might be a possibility, but no consideration even of the possibility that something might go wrong? They’re so fond of saying “we only have one planet” but are perfectly ok experimenting on it. The impact of such actions could have terrible and very long-term consequences.

Maybe they’re right. If I were leading a country, I would most certainly be willing to go to war to prevent the potential destruction of a portion of this one planet that we have.

August 28, 2020 8:03 am

There are no large scale geoengineering experiments because the point of it all is anti fossil fuel activism

see also

Robert of Texas
August 28, 2020 11:30 am

Rather than make the entire climate behave to our biases, we should adapt to the ever changing climate?

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Robert of Texas
August 28, 2020 4:25 pm


alan tomalty
August 29, 2020 1:45 am No one has mentioned Bill Gates. Apparently he is still funding a pilot project that wants to partially block out the sun. Even Congress is getting involved. Luckily Gates seems distracted by his vaccine ambitions to counter SARSCOV2. Personally I think Bill Gates should be committed to an insane asylum.

August 29, 2020 2:21 pm

“Humans have long been shaping Earth’s landscape, but now scientists know we can shape our near-space environment as well.”
“A number of experiments and observations have figured out that, under the right conditions, radio communications signals in the VLF frequency range can in fact affect the properties of the high-energy radiation environment around the Earth,” said Phil Erickso”

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