Eco-Activists, Climate Scientists Quietly Met To Discuss Tinkering With The Sun

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A group of eco-activists, climate scientists and funders recently met at the offices of a major environmental group to discuss the advancement of solar geoengineering, according to E&E News.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) held the two-day convention at its San Francisco offices to bring together relevant stakeholders interested in developing solar geoengineering technologies, which modify the environment in ways that decrease the Earth’s absorption of sunlight, E&E News reported. The meeting was also meant to get environmentalists, scientists and funders of their work in the same room ahead of an anticipated deluge of geoengineering-related investment from Silicon Valley.

EDF has supported solar geoengineering research for more than a decade, and the concept of using geoengineering to avoid increases in global temperature is also supported by billionaires Bill Gates and George Soros, according to E&E News. One solar geoengineering idea is to boost the Earth’s reflectivity by spraying particles into the stratosphere, and another approach would be to alter cloud cover such that Earth absorbs more sunlight. (RELATED: Climate Scientists Want An Umbrella The Size Of Argentina To Block Out The Sun)

Beyond EDF, several private philanthropic foundations that typically support left-of-center organizations and causes have also poured funds into solar geoengineering, according to E&E News. For example, the Simons Foundation — the charitable organization founded by billionaire hedge funder James Simons — has committed to spending $50 million on solar geoengineering projects over five years, while the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has joined Bill Gates to fund a solar geoengineering research program at Harvard University.

However, solar geoengineering technology is still early in its infancy, and the scientific record is not clear that it would be an effective means of countering climate change, or that there will not be any serious negative second-order consequences that result from tampering with the Earth’s absorption of sunlight, according to E&E News. Preliminary research demonstrates that shooting aerosols into the stratosphere for years or longer could harm the ozone layer or alter weather patterns while doing nothing to address other externalities of fossil fuel use, for example.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – DECEMBER 03: Bill Gates, former CEO of Microsoft, speaks at the Health Day Opening Session on day four of the UNFCCC COP28 Climate Conference at Expo City Dubai on December 03, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The COP28, which is running from November 30 through December 12, is bringing together stakeholders, including international heads of state and other leaders, scientists, environmentalists, indigenous peoples representatives, activists and others to discuss and agree on the implementation of global measures towards mitigating the effects of climate change. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 19: (L-R) CEO, Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator Racquel Moses, Global Climate Head, PPP and Corporate Finance Advisory World Bank Group Gisele Saralegui, Division Manager African Development Bank Dr. Al-Hamndou Dorsouma, Executive Vice President, Impact, Environmental Defense Fund Angela Churie-Kallhauge and Managing Director, Ernst & Young Rob Bradley speak onstage during the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit at Sheraton New York on September 19, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

(L-R) Former US Senator and president of the United Nations Foundation, Timothy E.Wirth, Hungarian-American businessman and philanthropist George Soros, the Head of Indonesian Presidents Delivery Unit for REDD Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Norway’s Primer Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo, take part in a meeting at the UN climate Change Conference (COP16) in Cancun, Mexico, on December 8, 2010. (Photo: JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)

A set of standardized federal guidelines for solar geoengineering “hasn’t come to be yet,” Lisa Dilling, EDF’s associate chief scientist, told E&E News. The convention demonstrated “the reality of the world as we see it now, which is that there are foundations starting to be interested in this topic,” according to Dilling.

EDF declined to share a list of participants in the meeting with E&E News, and a spokesperson for the group told the Daily Caller News Foundation that it would not comment beyond the information it has previously shared with E&E. The organization will reportedly release a report on the convention at some time in the future that will likely disclose the names of those who attended.

“There are lots of individual foundations that are interested in this topic. And what they then often do is invest a lot of time and money figuring out who to give the money to, and reinvent the wheel in many ways,” Gernot Wagner, a climate-focused economist at Columbia Business School who used to work for EDF, told E&E News. “This EDF-brokered effort is trying to funnel more than one foundation’s philanthropic giving in a similar direction and help guide that giving.”

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