Over the last week, there have been reports claiming that Bill Gates is backing an experimental plan by Harvard scientists to cool down the Earth by dimming the sun's light in a bid to combat global warming.
Gates to Release Aerosols into the Atmosphere to Reflect Sun's Rays
The report claimed Gates was backing a Harvard University Project called SCoPEx that plans to test out a controversial theory that global warming can be stopped by spraying particles into the atmosphere in an attempt to reflect the sun's rays to cool the planet and counter global warming but would be a catastrophic threat to humanity.
Gates has often been a popular target of conspiracy theories that claim his charitable giving is part of his nefarious scheme of world domination. The claims seem to have referenced or combined the Reuters story with elements of a scientifically confused profile of the SCoPEx project published in 2019 by the British tabloid Daily Mail, which states that scientists think SCoPEx could have unintended global consequences. However, such assertions or implications are misleading in several regards.
What is SCoPEx?
While it is true that Gates has financially backed research programs that includes theoretical studies into the feasibility of solar radiation management and SCoPEx is among those projects, it is a mischaracterization to suggest that SCoPEx plans to test this form of geoengineering as a tool and its main objective is climate intervention, or that SCoPEx itself could have implications on the global climate system.
The objective of the SCoPEx project is not to dim the sun's rays but to release a small proportion of calcium carbonate into the wake of a propeller-driven weather balloon flying 12 miles above the arctic and create a cloud that will help gather data, which among other things, will allow computer models to analyze the potential risks of actual geoengineering. Moreover, this experiment is in no way capable of altering the global climate system.
These models, according to the SCoPEx website are the primary tool for estimating the risks and benefits of solar geoengineering." In order to refine these models, scientists will need to know how the aerosols interact with the atmosphere on a nanoscale.
The only reason why SCoPEx was in the news recently was because the project found a company to facilitate the launch of the weather balloon, which is still months away and pending approval from Harvard's advisory committee. And even if it does get the nod, it will be only a test of the balloon and not for the release of its theoretical payload of just under 3.5 pounds of calcium carbonate powder.