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Councils delay climate geoengineering experiment

A controversial project to test engineering technology that could provide new ways of reversing the effects of climate change has been delayed.

The Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) project was due to begin in October. However the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, one of the scheme’s funders, announced on 29 September that it would halt progress.

“EPSRC has taken the decision to delay the experiment planned in October, to allow time for more engagement with stakeholders,” said the council in a statement.

“We have adopted a responsible innovation approach with this project … and our decision to pause the test bed experiment reflects the advice that we have received from our advisory panel following a stage gate,” added the council.

The project would involve assessing the feasibility of injecting particles into the stratosphere from a tethered balloon, in an attempt to reflect a small percentage of incoming solar radiation and cool the Earth.

According to the Natural Environment Research Council, which also funds the project, a consultation exercise had already been undertaken in a parallel project by Cardiff University, looking into public attitudes towards SPICE.

It found that very few people were unconditionally positive about the idea of geoengineering or the proposed test, though most thought that research in the area should go ahead.

The project, a collaboration between researchers at the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Oxford, together with Marshall Aerospace, is also funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Details of the project were unveiled at the British Science Festival in Bradford on 14 September.