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Send in the clouds

Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire and one of the World’s richest men, is funding research into machines that suck up seawater to seed clouds in the hope that the newly ‘whitended’ clouds will help reflect sunlight away from Earth and stablise global warming.

In the wake of the failed Copenhagen conference, which means ongoing and unchecked rises in greenhouse gas emissions, the World urgently needs strategies to protect itself from global warming. Goengineering is inceasingly being seen as of the best hopes for a  ‘quick fix’ solution. Current projects include launching an array of mirrors into orbit around Earth to reflect away sunlight, using aircraft to spray sulphate paricles into the stratosphere and building giant carbon capture ‘trees’.  Some untested geoengineering projects have the potential to have long term weather and climate implications – and unintended consequences. It has been estimated that a fleet of 1900 cloud ships costing £5 billion could arrest the rise in lobal temperatures by criss-crossing the world’s oceans, spreaying water from funnels and ‘whitening clouds’ to increase reflectivity. Silver Lining, which is researching the cloud seeeding idea, received just over £200,000 from Mr Gates. Silver Lining will develop the new technology and trial ten ships over 10,000 square kilometres of ocean.