Finally: A Garden Hose to the Sky

Well, it’s actually happening. An idea reported extensively in SuperFreakonomics has come to fruition, and some mad scientists are getting their way (and a little government funding) to build a garden hose to the sky — and potentially save the world by cooling it down.

A team of British researchers called SPICE (Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering) is trying to pump particles of water into the atmosphere as a test run before moving onto sulfates and aerosols that would reflect sunlight away from earth, mimicking the aftereffect of a massive volcanic eruption. SPICE is building the garden hose at an undisclosed location, with £1.6 million in U.K. government funding and the backing of the Royal Society.

Check out Steven Levitt’s interview with Jon Stewart from 2009, where he discusses the idea (beginning at about the 2:20 mark). And below, from SuperFreakonomics Illustrated, is a look at Intellectual Ventures’ plan to pump liquified sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere.




Just paint every roof in the world white. . .


More human intervention to counter previous human intervention in an incredibly complex question for which the data is very questionable is lunacy. It is like hitting someone in the head with a hammer to balance out the fact that we had just hit them in the chest with a hammer.


Bart, great post!

There is a reason they are floating this trial balloon at an undisclosed location. Forget about whether we are warming or cooling or whether or not you think the status quo is just perfect for everyone.

Finland and Somalia probably have very different opinions on controlling the weather.


What a great idea! Do something irreversible to make the planet a better place for mankind. Let's not worry about previous efforts, like nuclear power, which was going to be free and pollution-free or the big hydro dams, or Soviet efforts to reverse the flow of rivers, because that was so long ago and so far away and we know everything now.


I was intrigued in reading of this idea in SuperFreakonomics. But I also remembered a repeated Freakonomoics observation that well-intended policies can have unforeseen consequences. Might not this ambitious project have troubling unforeseen consequences too - global ones?


It would be interesting, in the bad way, if this triggered global cooling and an ice age equivalent to what was experienced during medieval times.

robyn ann goldstein

That's nice. But what about Obama's motives for cow-towing to corporate interests (when corporations won't survive either without a healthy and thriving environment. I am reminded of Max Weber's words of wisdom. In all times, minorities (when they are excluded from positions of power) tend to go into business. I wonder whether our elected President Obama understands what he is doing and why?

robyn ann goldstein

OK, let's assume for the moment that Obama does understand the need for a real working relationship between science and the global business industrial complex, now the question is of how we work it out where locals have jobs, countries maintain their relative independence and companies thrive in a healthy and `diverse' cultural environment. Simple, no. Necessary, yes.


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well if IV came up with the idea, it's only a matter of time before those British researchers see a request for royalties (and followed by a lawsuit).