George Monbiot is not impressed with a new envrionmental venture funded by Britain's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council that aims to injecting water droplets into the atmosphere from a huge balloon attached to a hosepipe. If all goes well, the eventual aim is to squirt large amounts of sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere in order to reduce global warming by reflecting sunlight back into space. Writes Monbiot:
The balloon and hosepipe experiment is a complete waste of time. The hazardous effects of injecting particles into the atmosphere are unlikely to make themselves known until the technique is deployed on a very large scale and for several years. The impacts of small-scale tests will be lost in the noise of global weather. A full-scale experiment would be, to say the least, unethical.
As a recent paper in Nature Geoscience points out, it is "physically not feasible" to stabilise global rainfall and temperature by means of this technique while greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. The effects of shooting particles into the atmosphere will vary dramatically in different parts of the world, helping some, harming others. It's impossible to see how the countries likely to be harmed by this technique would agree to it. If it were imposed on them it would lead to the mother of all conflicts – and the mother of all lawsuits.
The problem with technological fixes to global warming are numerous - most stemming from the unknown side effects of using new technology that might actually end up doing more harm than good. We do know that reducing consumption, using less electricity and switching away from fossil fuels will help prevent climate change, the only problem being an inability to change our life styles. Quick fixes sound great in theory, but as Monbiot points out 'A good diet and plenty of exercise are better than the knife'.