A team of academics funded by the British Royal Society and the UK government is working on a plan to mitigate the effects of climate change by building a giant artificial volcano. The idea is to tether an enormous balloon - about the size of Wembley Stadium - to a pipe 20 kilometres long, and use it to pump minute particles into the atmosphere. This illustration from the Guardian shows the test phase of the project:
In theory, this would mimic the effects of a large-scale volcanic eruption. In 2010, the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano grounded planes across Europe and wreaked havoc on the economy. But the academics involved in the study believe that it also cooled the Earth's atmosphere significantly, and that by injecting particles into the atmosphere they can bounce some of the sun's energy back into space, preventing it from warming the Earth and reducing the effects of man-made climate change.
Environmental groups in Britain and the U.S. are opposed to the plan, and UK author and environmental activist George Monbiot calls the technology "extremely dangerous." He explains that the concept is basically akin to leaking a massive amount of sulphate particles into the air - which many scientists believe is what caused global warming in the first place.
At the moment, the academics are preparing to test the technology, with the initial phase only involving water particles at a height of one kilometer. Pat Mooney, chair of Canadian NGO ETC Group, believes that the project should be halted immediately: "Going ahead with this experiment will do real damage to the UK's - and Europe's - credibility in climate negotiations."