Cool the planet? Controversial science balloon launch in Sweden canceled

Faced with much criticism, American scientists and a space center in Swedish Lapland announced Wednesday March 31 the cancellation of the launch of a balloon as part of a controversial research project on “geoengineering»Solar system aimed at artificially cooling the climate.

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According to plans by a team from Harvard University, this high-altitude balloon was to be launched in June from the small Esrange space center near Kiruna, north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, as part of the project dubbed “SCoPEx» («Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment») Objective: to carry out tests in the stratosphere – without initially releasing material – with a view to other launches aimed at testing on a very small scale a technique of artificial cooling of the atmosphere, by diffusing an experimental quantity ( less than 2 kilos) of particles of matter to reduce the effect of the sun’s rays.

Dangerous and risky technology to master?

Inspired by the climatic effects of volcanic eruptions, the technology deserves to be studied to combat global warming that is spiraling out of control, according to its advocates. But the project – like geoengineering in general – has raised significant concerns, including among scientists but also among environmental organizations, who consider the technology dangerous and very risky to master. “There is no clear international consensus on the desirability of this type of research.“, Noted Wednesday the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), the public company which operates the site of Esrange.

«After discussions with Swedish experts and stakeholders, and in agreement with Harvard, SSC decided not to perform the planned test flight with a balloon this summer.“, She announces in a press release. A special committee set up by Harvard University to study in particular the societal and ethical aspect of the project announced at the same time that it had also asked for the cancellation of the test flight in June. And this in order to allow more consultation with Swedish civil society, in particular with the Sami, indigenous people of Lapland.

The committee “recommends that societal discussions take place in Sweden before any SCoPEx research takes place in the country“, He indicates on his site, without however giving up the project. “This will probably delay the take-off (of a balloon) until 2022», According to the committee.

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