Statospheric aerosols: flying high in the cost/benefit sky

…Nope, it’s a massive, climate-tweaking balloon.

As the story goes, ‘on the sixth day God created Man’. However, a few billion years later, man decided to step in to the ‘creators’ shoes for the weekend and play God.

As ever, we love the slightly zany stories about new technologies or ideas that aim to rid, or at very least mitigate those pesky climate changing emissions.

And I mean, who doesn’t love balloons?

Recently at EST HQ we read of an exciting project taking place in the east of England which involves suspending a humongous helium-filled balloons high above the sky – around 1km to be exact. These super balloons, roughly the size of Wembley Stadium, will carry a hose high up in to the sky which will then in turn spray out tiny light-reflecting sulphur dioxide particles.

This SPICE (stratospheric particle injection for climate engineering) concept, also referred to as an artificial Volcano due to the same sulphur emitting process, could reduce the global temperature around the globe by offsetting the warming effects of greenhouse gases. The scientist behind SPICE believe that by pouring 10 million tonnes of material into the stratosphere ,each using 10 to 20 giant balloons, it could achieve a 2C global drop in temperature. 

It’s all part of a scientific movement called geoengineering and involves manipulating the natural world around us by methods made by man.  There are probably many people reading this blog thinking that manipulating the Earth’s atmosphere could be a fanciful, even misguided idea.  But it seems that this relatively cheap and thought-provoking idea may actually be very effective.

This isn’t the only kind of geoengineering that humans have embarked on lately. Other methods of geoengineering have also been tested, including fertilizing oceans to encourage algae blooms and pulling carbon dioxide out of the air. But a 2009 report by the U.K.’s Royal Society concluded that reflective particulates injected into the stratosphere would be the least expensive and most effective way to rapidly cool the planet.

I’m sure that over the next couple of decades, we will see even more bright ideas surfacing that will help us reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change. Important as geoengineering ideas may be, it’s still massively important that we as individuals do our part to help reduce carbon emissions and become less reliant on fossil fuels. Next to Wembley-sized, aerosol-spewing balloons at the cutting edge of science, taking a home energy check may seem a small step for man – but in terms of your own cost/ benefit analysis, it should work out very nicely.