A pioneering UK project to test technology for a climate “tech fix” has been postponed for
at least a year.
The Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (Spice) project would have pumped water droplets into the atmosphere from a tethered balloon.
The kit could then have been used to disperse tiny dust particles to cool the Earth, as volcanic eruptions do.
The Spice chiefs cite problems with regulations, intellectual property and public engagement.
Core to the decision was a patent application filed by two Cambridge University researchers, Hugh Hunt and Chris Burgoyne, and Isle of Man-based businessman Peter Davidson, that covered much of the project’s technology.
“The details of this application were only reported to the project team a year into the project lifetime and caused many members, including me, significant discomfort,” said Spice project leader Matt Watson from Bristol University.
Dr Watson and some of the other academics believe as a matter of principle that experimentation into geoengineering, the nascent field of “technical fixes” for climate change, should be patent-free.
However, Dr Burgoyne said the application was made to protect the technology, not to turn a profit.
“I’ve never taken the view that this is something anybody will make money on – it’s just saying ‘we thought of this’, so that if a company comes along and tries to patent it later, they can’t,” he told BBC News.