What is SCoPEx and how does it intend to help reduce global warming?

The SCoPEx project by Havard University is working on geoengineering for global warming issues. The first great geoengineering experiment in history was to be launched this summer in Sweden, but they have run into a problem. Can climate change be stopped by covering the sun? We tell you.

“We are on the edge of the abyss, we must make sure that the next step is in the right direction “António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, expressed himself this way in the presentation of the Report on the Global State of the Climate 2020 a few weeks ago. The pandemic has collapsed all of our attention since the beginning of 2020, as climate change continues to manifest its devastating effects. 

Last year there were fires, floods, droughts and cyclones on all continents and those affected hardly received aid because all the resources have been used to stop the infections and deaths from the coronavirus. The latest climate report by the World Meteorological Organization has been called terrifying, urging all countries to collectively reduce global emissions by 2030, by 45% from 2010 levels.

But, regardless of the measures that governments and citizens can carry out to protect the planet from the amounts of pollution we generate. There is a project underway that proposes a different way to reduce the planet’s temperature in an extreme emergency. It is known as the Scopex project (Stratospheric Controlled Disturbance Experiment) developed by Harvard University and which has Bill Gates as one of its main patrons.

The objective of this project would be to evaluate the effectiveness of solar geoengineering or climate engineering, which consists of the deliberate and large-scale modification of the Earth’s climate to combat global warming, for example, by blocking the sun. An idea that was also predicted in The Simpsons. 

The Harvard University proposal is far from the Machiavellian plan of Mr. Burns. The researchers propose to spray the Earth’s atmosphere with particles capable of reflecting sunlight and thus help cool the temperature of our planet. This effect is something that has already been seen in nature itself. 

In 1991 the eruption of the Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines expelled some 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, was the second major volcanic eruption of the last century and killed hundreds of people. Those particles that the volcano expelled were distributed throughout the atmosphere, reflecting part of the sun’s rays and lowering the earth’s temperature by half a degree during the following 18 months. If the planet ever reaches an extreme temperature, this resource could give us time, but it would be useless if we do not manage to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases with other measures.

SCoPEx
image: Havard University

The Harvard team of researchers want to release calcium carbonate, a very abundant mineral on Earth, which is not toxic and does not have the drawbacks of sulfuric acid, which destroys ozone and warms the stratosphere. However, calcium carbonate does not exist naturally in the stratosphere, so further laboratory and outdoor studies are needed to confirm its effects.

SCoPEx
Image: Havard University

This summer a first test of the experiment was planned, in which the Harvard research group wanted to make a first flight of the hot air balloon that would take the material up to the stratosphere. This is a unique test of the platform or hot air balloon system, similar to the many used each year for other scientific projects and will not expel any minerals or aerosols. 

Still, the Scopex Advisory Committee and the Swedish space agency have temporarily blocked that test. “Climate change and its consequences is one of the greatest challenges we face on our planet. Therefore, research in this field is important, and many of the experiments that are being carried out aboard balloons and rockets from the Space Center Esrange contribute to the investigation, “says the statement.” However, the scientific community is divided on geoengineering, including related technological tests, such as technical test flight planned balloon from Esrange this summer “

Those responsible for this project assure that they chose Sweden as the launch site for the balloon due to the country’s space trajectory. The Swedish Space Agency has more than 40 years of experience in launching these stratospheric balloons. That is why the Esrange space center in Kiruna has been chosen.

The Saami Council, which promotes the rights and interests of the Saami indigenous people in Sweden and neighboring regions, also asked the committee and the Swedish Space Corporation to cancel this test flight. They claim that they ” threaten the reputation and credibility of the climate leadership that Sweden wants and must pursue ” and consider that the ” only way to deal effectively with the climate crisis ” is through renewable energy and pollution reduction.

The Swedish space agency, in its statement, assures that despite this blockade it is important to continue the debate that has been generated around geoengineering within the scientific community, since it is not yet clear that the benefits of this type of experiment are greater than the disadvantages.

It is enough to remember that the Pinatubo, in addition to cooling the planet by half a degree with its volcanic activity, sank the agricultural production of foods such as corn, soybeans, or rice and wheat throughout the world, raising prices, among many other problems.. After all, the sun is one of our main sources of life.

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