Guest essay by Ivor Williams
The world wide web is perfectly designed to spread despair, gloom, despondency and the opinions of all those who don’t know what they’re talking about. One product of this unlooked-for attribute is a continuous daily avalanche of global warming doom.
Every instance of drought, gales, hurricanes, forest fires and floods are now apparently the result of global warming. Weather has seemingly been gentle, mild and unchangeable until the last 50 years.
Quite suddenly (in climatic terms) we had that infamous statement from the UN Secretary-General: ‘the era of global warming has ended and the era of global boiling has arrived.’ ‘This newspaper,’ said the pontifical Guardian newspaper, ‘is right to speak of a climate crisis or emergency.’
July really got them going. ‘Some news outlets [source not given] have reported that daily temperatures have hit a 100,000 year high.’ The claims couldn’t get more ridiculous, you might think, but they did. ‘Scientists [source again not given] are predicting that July will likely be the warmest in human civilisation’s history.’
These everyday nonsensical postings are seized on by other parts of the media and are world-wide within minutes of them first appearing. ‘Nonsensical’ because daily (and therefore monthly) temperatures have only been recorded world-wide since about 1880, and even now are dubious because of the huge gaps in the spread of temperature measurements over both land and sea.
Meanwhile, some scientists have noted that in spite of Emission Reduction Resolutions being signed off at every annual UN Conference of the Parties from 1995 (COP1) to 2023 (COP27), emissions have risen constantly throughout. This is because governments, presidents and dictators have all understood that their people demand not only shelter and food but also a constant supply of electricity. The cheapest and quickest way to provide this is by way of fossil-fuelled power stations.
Those scientists have therefore come up with other ways to save the world from what they see as imminent climate doom. What about dimming the sun, for instance? Solar Radiation Management (SRM) includes marine cloud brightening, cirrus cloud thinning, space-based techniques, and stratospheric aerosol scattering. SRM aims to cool the Earth (or stop temperatures rising) by reflecting a small percentage of sunlight back into space.
A UN Environment Programme report earlier this year said that ‘measures such as SRM are being raised in scientific and public discourse since global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not on track to meet the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal.’
The White House recently asked the US Office of Science and Technology to ‘provide a research plan for solar and other rapid climate interventions.’ More worryingly the world’s richer people have joined in. George Saros says cloud brightening (to reflect more sunlight) would be his preferred method. Bill Gates has backed a Harvard project to spray calcium carbonate into the high atmosphere. Jeff Bezos ‘is using Amazon’s supercomputer capabilities to model the effects of plans to inject huge amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere.’
Back in 1978, the United Nations published the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques. It seems they could already see the possibility of ‘weather wars’. Could SRM experiments be construed as hostile by nations not involved?
While some groups argue for sun-dimming others are warning of the dangers. ‘The risks of research,’ said the June issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, ‘are not always communicated by solar radiation management research advocates …
Idealized climate models, in particular, can erroneously misrepresent stratospheric aerosol injection as technology that can be centrally designed and easily deployed.’
There are many other similar concerns. 440 scientists and other academics have signed an open letter calling for ‘immediate political action … to prevent the normalization of solar geoengineering as a climate policy option.’ That UNEP report quoted above also said that ‘SRM is not yet ready for large-scale deployment to cool the Earth.’
Another website commented that ‘scientists worry that studying how to shade the Earth from some of the sun’s heat is a slippery slope toward deployment of solar radiation management without fully understanding the risks.’
But the temptation for some groups to save the world is proving too strong to resist. One earlier SRM research project was SPICE (Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering) from a group of UK universities and organisations, which ran from 2010-2013. Another SCoPEX, from Harvard, got as far as a proposed field trial in Sweden in March 2021 but the Swedish government stopped it under pressure from indigenous people and environmental groups.
Here in the UK last September, according to the March 2023 MIT Technology Review, ‘researchers … launched a high-altitude weather balloon that released a few hundred grams of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, a potential scientific first in the solar geoengineering field.’ There was a second flight in September from the launch site in Buckinghamshire. Andrew Lockley, an independent researcher previously affiliated with University College London, led the project.
A US company, Make Sunsets, has so far launched 22 balloons which, it claims, has offset 3,411+ ton-years of warming. Their system is basic, using a balloon, parachute and telemetry equipment very similar to the radio-sonde layout used by meteorologists for many years. The reflective particles are inserted into the balloon before inflation, the balloon expands as it ascends, eventually bursts, and the particles are scattered into the stratosphere, probably more than 60,000 feet above the earth. The parachute brings the instrument pack down gently (if it opens properly).
‘The science and math back us up,’ their website claims, ‘but we also recognize that there are unknowns and risks associated with stratospheric aerosol injection … By purchasing a Cooling Credit [£9 or $10], your funds will be used to release at least 1 gram of our “clouds” into the stratosphere on your behalf, offsetting the warming effect of 1 ton of carbon dioxide for 1 year.’
Dimming the sun will mean ever larger experiments conducted on the very air we breathe and the atmosphere we live in. Once initiated they will be impossible to control. Computers have not yet been invented that could accurately forecast the precise results worldwide. Any subsequent extreme weather will be seen as a direct consequence and the nation responsible for hosting the experiments could be sued for hundreds of billions in damages.
There’s more to worry about here than the so-called global warming emergency.