City Scraps Controversial Climate Test

Alameda, California, officials nix test of sea spray particles, one day meant for cloud brightening
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2024 2:00 PM CDT
City Scraps Controversial Climate Test
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/angel_nt)

In an attempt to stave off the worst effects of global warming, researchers are reaching into their toolbox to find whatever remedies they can. One California city has now shoved one such plan back in the box: On Wednesday, the City Council in Alameda voted to stop scientists from experimenting with a device that could one day help cool Earth down. More:

  • The plan: As part of the University of Washington's Marine Cloud Brightening Program, atmospheric scientists were spraying sea salt particles on the flight deck of the USS Hornet, a decommissioned aircraft carrier parked in San Francisco Bay. The test, which began in early April and was set to last for months or even years, was to determine how the particles move through the air—with a possible goal of one day spraying them into the clouds to reflect sunlight away from the Earth.

  • The controversy: The test had been halted by the city shortly after it started so that risks to people and the environment could be assessed. In late May, a report from Alameda's city manager revealed that no such risks had been found and that the test should continue, with more safeguards in place to help tamp down concerns. Instead, the City Council voted this week against continuing with the experiment.
  • Concerns: While some environmentalists are all for such "climate intervention," aka solar reengineering, others warn of possible inadvertent results, per the New York Times. They also say that focusing on a possible remedy like this just takes time and cash away from trying to cut down on the use of fossil fuels, which should be the overarching goal. "While this is a local decision, it has far-reaching consequences," Gary Hughes of the Hands Off Mother Earth alliance said at the meeting. "There are global climate justice dynamics at stake."
  • Pushback: In a statement, scientists with the Coastal Aerosol Research and Engagement (CAARE) program insisted the test wasn't "designed to alter clouds or any aspect of the local weather or climate and were not cloud brightening activities," per CBS News.
  • Officials' reaction: "I don't think this is the right place," Trish Herrera Spencer, an Alameda City Council member, said during the Tuesday meeting, per the Times. Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft also weighed in, noting, "I don't have a huge desire to be on the cutting edge."
  • Scientists' reaction: "Disappointed" is how Sarah J. Doherty, the head of UWA's cloud brightening initiative, says she feels about the decision. She notes her group is looking for "alternate sites" for their tests.
(More climate change stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.