City Shuts Down Geoengineering Experiment

Mirror Mirror

In one California town, local officials have shut down the United States' first so-called "cloud-brightening" experiment — even after an investigation found that it's safe for residents and the environment.

As the New York Times reports, the City Council in Alameda, California has voted to end its pioneering marine geoengineering experiments, which involved spraying tiny particles of sea salt off the deck of a decommissioned aircraft carrier in hopes of one day making clouds brighter and capable of reflecting sunlight away from our planet.

Undertaken by climate researchers from the University of Washington, the beginning of the sun-dimming experiments — which, notably, had not yet begun seeding clouds with salt but were instead measuring the feasibility of the equipment being used — made national news earlier this year, which per CBS News took Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft by surprise.

Soon after that reporting, and after Tennessee banned similar experiments under the misguided notion that they constituted "chemtrails," city officials ordered the UW trial to a halt, claiming that the researchers hadn't been transparent about what they'd be doing. The council commissioned an environmental assessment to determine whether or not spraying salt into the sky could be harmful to natural or human health.

No Foul

The ensuing environmental assessment found, as the NYT noted in a previous report, that the "chemical components of the saltwater solution (which is similar to seawater) being sprayed are naturally occurring in the environment." City staff recommended the experiment continue, citing the potential environmental benefits it could lead to.

Nevertheless, after a lengthy meeting in which residents and council members voiced concerns about whether or not the geoengineering trial was truly harmless, the governing body voted unanimously to shut down the experiment.

"I don’t think it’s appropriate for our community to be asked to bear that risk," councilor Trish Herrera Spencer said, per the NYT. "I don’t think this is the right place."

Mayor Ashcraft echoed those concerns, saying she doesn't "have a huge desire to be on the cutting edge."

"I just feel like this is not the right time," the mayor said.

More on climate change: You Might Cry When You Read This Study About What's Happening to the Oceans