A sun bathing glamour puss gets hot by the poolside. She spritzes.
Could the same technique cool down the beautiful planet Earth?
Yes, suggests billionaire Bill Gates.
He's financially backing two Harvard scientists who will spray sun reflecting chemicals 80,000 feet above Fort Sumner, N.M. with the help of a balloon, the Guardian reports.
Harvard professor of applied physics David Keith, who is leading the project, wants to replicate the effect of volcanoes - known to spew earth cooling sulfates - by using sulfate aerosols to reflect sunlight away from earth and thus reduce the heat.
Keith says that the technique could represent an inexpensive method for slowing down global warming. Other scientists warn that "it could have unrpedictable, disastrous consequences for the Earth's weather systems and food supplies," the Guardian notes. And environmental groups worry it could de-emphasize attempts to reduce carbon emissions.
The project is part of a larger "geoengineering" initiative bankrolled by Gates' Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research, and managed by Keith. A Guardian article in February reported that Gates had provided $4.6 million to the fund.
The article also noted that, "according to statements of financial interest, Keith receives an undisclosed sum from Bill Gates each year."
Keith doubles as the president and majority owner of geoengineering firm Carbon Engineering, in which Gates and Canadian oil sands billionaire Murray Edwards "have major stakes - believed to be together worth over $10m," the Guardian writes. Edwards is chairman of oil company Canadian Natural Resources.
In addition to Gates and Murrary, billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson and Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom are separately backing research into geoengineering technologies, the story states. Geoengineering schemes deliberately modify the environment and can include removing CO2 from the air, as well as reflecting sunlight and other alterations.
As I reported here on SmartPlanet and in the Guardian, Branson like Gates is also pushing for a new breed of safer and more efficient nuclear reactors to help provide carbon-free power. Gates is chairman of TerraPower, which is developing a form of "fast reactor" known as a traveling wave reactor. Branson has written to President Barack Obama seeking help commericalizing fast reactors.