Over 50 concerned groups from around the world are calling on people to sign an open letter asking the UK Government and Research Councils to scrap the controversial SPICE experiment designed to test hardware for deployment of stratospheric aerosol injections as a way to artificially cool the planet. The SPICE project (Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering) involves four universities, three research councils, several government departments along with private company Marshall Aerospace.
Groups signing the letter to Environment Minister Chris Huhne and the UK Research Councils hope it will gather enough support before the test to get authorities to reconsider allowing the controversial experiment to go ahead. The experiment, which involves spraying water from a kilometre-long hose suspended by a giant balloon, is scheduled to take place on a disused military airstrip in Sculthorpe, in Norfolk, UK between October 6 and 23rd. Groups objecting to the test say it will send the wrong signal to the international community, which adopted a moratorium on geoengineering activities last October at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan.
“On the one hand, our government is involved in negotiations around geoengineering and biodiversity by funding, chairing and actively participating in discussions at the CBD. On the other hand, it is preparing the hardware for deployment of a potentially very dangerous geoengineering technology. Such tests should certainly not be allowed to proceed before there is an international decision to go down that path,” says Helena Paul of Econexus, one the NGOs involved in the CBD talks and in the open letter.
Diana Bronson of ETC Group, an international technology watchdog says: “This is a Trojan Hose — our objection is not that they want to spray water but that they are preparing the technology that can shoot sulfates into the stratosphere to try to block sunlight from reaching the earth. This so-called Solar Radiation Management could have devastating consequences — altering precipitation patterns, threatening food supplies and public health, destroying ozone and diminishing the effectiveness of solar power, in addition to many other known and unknown impacts.”
Organizers invite people opposed to carrying out geoengineering field trials in the absence of international agreement to signal their opposition here: www.handsoffmotherearth.org
For more information:
Helena Paul, Econexus in London: cell: + 44 (0)7724 711183
Diana Bronson, in Montreal: cell: +1 514 629 9236
September 26, 2011
Mr. Chris Huhne, MP
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)
3 Whitehall Place
RE: The Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) project
Dear Secretary of State Huhne,
We are writing to express our concern about the SPICE research project, which is managed by the University of Bristol in collaboration with the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh, as well as military contractor Marshall Aerospace. The £1.6 million project has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). We are calling upon the UK government and the Research Councils involved to suspend the project. In particular, we believe the experiment planned to test equipment for injecting particles into the stratosphere with the aim of counteracting global warming through solar radiation management (SRM) should be cancelled.
This experiment could prove disruptive to international discussions on geoengineering ongoing at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) following the decision of the 10th Conference of the Parties in Nagoya, Japan less than one year ago. (COP 10 Decision X/33 can be found here: http://www.cbd.int/decision/cop/?id=12299 (paragraph 8w).) It is unacceptable for the UK government to sponsor – even chair – discussions at the CBD while simultaneously funding experiments and developing hardware for the deployment of stratospheric aerosols, one of the most controversial geoengineering technologies under discussion. This apparent conflict of interest will undermine the credibility of the UK, not only at the CBD, but also in other climate-related negotiations, notably at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).
While the CBD decision does allow for small-scale experiments that meet certain conditions, it is unlikely the SPICE project meets the criteria as it cannot take place in a “controlled setting” (since the hose reaches one kilometer into the sky and is intended as a model for an apparatus that will be twenty times longer). The test cannot be justified by the need to gather specific scientific data (but is rather designed to test equipment). While the test would use water rather than particulates, its sole purpose is to engineer the hardware that would later allow chemicals to be injected into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight. To respect both the letter and the spirit of the CBD’s decision, and the follow-up consultations currently underway, the UK government and the research councils should confirm that they will not grant permission for, or fund, any other field trials of SRM equipment in the absence of an international consensus.
We believe that such research is a dangerous distraction from the real need: immediate and deep emissions cuts. Some of the global political and ecological dangers of stratospheric aerosol injection have been identified through modeling studies and examination of the impacts of sulphuric dust emitted by volcanoes. Those impacts include the potential for further damage to the ozone layer, disruption of rainfall, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions, and potentially threatening the food supplies of billions of people. Furthermore, emergent SRM technologies will leave high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, worsen ocean acidification and condemn future generations to continue a high-risk, planetary-scale technological intervention that is also likely to increase the risk of climate-related international conflict. The involvement of organizations and/or corporations associated with the military – as is Marshall Aerospace – increases that risk.
If this experiment is allowed to go ahead, many governments of the global South and many civil society organizations will conclude that the UK is not negotiating in good faith to reduce emissions, but is instead preparing to proceed down an alternative, very high-risk technological path. We hope you will make clear that is not the case.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada
Caroline Spelman, MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,UK
David Willetts, MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science,UK
Liam Fox, MP, Secretary of State for Defense, UK
Eric Thomas, Vice Chancellor, University of Bristol, UK
Andrew Hamilton, Vice Chancellor, Oxford University, UK
Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice Chancellor, Cambridge University, UK
Sir Timothy O’Shea, Principal, Edinburgh University, UK
David Delphy, Chief Executive, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, UK
Steven Wilson, Interim-director, Natural Environment Research Council, UK
Micheal Sterling, Science and Technology Facilities Council, UK