The advisory committee for a Harvard University geoengineering research project is recommending that the team suspend plans for its first balloon flight in Sweden this summer. From a report: The purpose of that initial flight was to evaluate the propelled balloon’s equipment and software in the stratosphere. In subsequent launches, the researchers hope to release small amounts of particles to better understand the risks and potential of solar geoengineering, the controversial concept of spraying sulfates, calcium carbonate or other compounds above the Earth to scatter sunlight and ease global warming. These would mark the first geoengineering-related experiments conducted in the stratosphere. But the committee has determined that the researchers should hold off on even the preliminary equipment tests until they’ve held discussions with members of the public in Sweden. David Keith, a Harvard climate scientist and member of the research team, said they will abide by the recommendations.
The decision is likely to push the launch into 2022, further delaying a project initially slated to begin as early as 2018. It also opens up the possibility that the initial flights will occur elsewhere, as the researchers had selected the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, Sweden in part because the Swedish Space Corporation could accommodate a launch this year. Moreover, that company said in its own statement that it decided not to conduct the flights as well, following recent conversations with geoengineering experts, the advisory board and other stakeholders. Harvard set up the advisory committee in 2019 to review the proposed experiments and ensure the researchers take appropriate steps to limit risks, seek outside input, and operate in a transparent manner. In a statement, the committee said it has begun the process of working with public engagement specialists in Sweden and looking for organizations to host conversations.
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