Painting the sky to cool the planet?

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Bill Gates is not aging well.

It is not because Mr. Gates dropped to the fourth wealthiest person on the planet after being number one for many years. He still has north of $100 billion thanks to a burgeoning stock market bubble.

The founder of the Microsoft Corporation, now retired, has been devoting full time to his many charitable endeavors, including his growing obsession with stopping global warming, i.e., “climate change.” He’s now gotten to the point of throwing money at pie-in-sky experiments that even some climate alarmists find, well – alarming.

Bill Gates is resorting to desperate measures by trying—literally—to paint the sky to block warmth from the sun.

Bill Gates: You know better than this. We need you now!

It’s not going well. The climate is still changing, but perhaps not in the direction so many believe since the warming that manifested 35 years ago. In recent years temperature has been treading water, so-to-speak. Mr. Gates, however, is taking no chances and is convinced warming will result in climatological disaster several decades from now.

Mr. Gates and others have been funding research at Harvard University called the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (i.e., “SCoPEx”) to conduct solar geo-engineering in a way that could cool areas of the planet. The plan is to spread chalk dust in the stratosphere to deflect the sun’s rays to lower the temperature.

For starters, the project would launch a massive balloon with scientific equipment 12 miles over the northern remote town of Kiruna, Sweden, in the Arctic, and release four pounds of calcium carbonate—a.k.a., chalk dust—and see what happens. The equipment on board would measure how the dust performs in the atmosphere as it slowly falls back to earth, specifically if any sunrays get deflected.

The SCoPEx project director, Frank Keutsch, said if the approach is effective, it would be deployed to prevent parts of the planet from becoming uninhabitable from global warming. His team of Harvard scientists concocting this geo-engineering cautions it is no climate panacea; rather, it would be one of many approaches to “buy the world some time” to reduce carbon.

Alas, Sweden’s space agency early this month nixed the balloon flight scheduled for June.

This chalk dust theory stems from the effects of volcano eruptions when tons of sulfuric acid get unleashed and linger in the air, which deflect sunrays and cool the surrounding region.

If the chalk experiment bore fruit, does that mean indefinitely spreading its dust in the sky to stabilize temperature? Some climate fanatics are skeptics. University of Edinburgh professor, Stuart Haszeldine described it “like taking heroin, you’ve got to carry on doing the drug to keep on having the effect.”

This planetary folly gets worse. Spreading dust en masse could affect the ozone layer that protects the planet from ultraviolet radiation that is harmful to people. It also could disrupt the circulation of ocean currents that effectively regulate the weather. Since Earth’s climate is interconnected, affecting one part of it could impact elsewhere to defeat the purpose by alter heat patterns, rainfall, air quality and more.

Maybe Senator Elizabeth Warren, promoter of the “wealth tax,” has a point – some people (not herself, of course) have too much money on their hands.

The silliness of spending a billionaire’s throwaway money to launch a balloon with handfuls of chalk dust to determine if mankind can geo-engineer the temperature is not a new. Such arrogance harks to the Bible story of the Tower of Babel from the book of Genesis, chapter 11, when mankind sought to build a “tower whose top is in the heavens [to] make a name for ourselves.” It didn’t work, but not for lack of thinking it could.

When multi-billionaires and scientists believe they can alter the planet’s climate, one can be forgiven for thinking that truth is stranger than the fiction of a B-movie or a Saturday morning cartoon they watched as a child. One of my personal favorites was Super Friends, circa 1973, e.g., the episode about making the planet warmer since it was getting so cold in places.

Geo-engineering to “reflect sunlight” isn’t just one billionaire’s fantasy. The federal taxpayer-funded National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine in its recent publication urged spending $100 million for such efforts, though it also cautioned about potential negative effects.

CFACT’s Marc Morano recently responded that the NAS report is another attempt to accelerate reduction in carbon emissions and push the proposed multi-trillion-dollar Green New Deal.

This Harvard geo-engineering research to paint the sky with chalk dust is one of many hysterical efforts from Bill Gates. To be fair, some of his more practical investments could bear fruit in developing geothermal energy and electric vehicle batteries.

There seems no limit for the climate obsessed to spend money to pursue fantasies to alter the planet, but the results of projects like SCoPEx will be no less fallacious than the Tower of Babel. It’s long past time to worry less about global warming, and more about the growing climate megalomania among the delusive billionaire class.

  • Peter Murphy is Senior Fellow at CFACT. He has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy, both in the non-profit sector and in government in the administration of former New York Governor George Pataki. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the NY Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post, Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal. Twitter: @PeterMurphy26 Website:

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