Enviros Urge Alameda Council to Reject Risky Experiment

Environmental Groups Urge Alameda Council to Reject Risky Geoengineering Experiment

ALAMEDA, CA — Today, Friends of the Earth US and the Center for International Environmental Law call on the Alameda City Council to reject a highly contentious geoengineering experiment, echoing concerns from civil society organizations from across the world.

Alameda City Council members are due to vote on June 4 on whether a controversial experiment to test a highly-speculative geoengineering technique can go ahead in the Bay Area. The city called a halt to the University of Washington-led project that aims to test technology that would advance Marine Cloud Brightening — a form of solar radiation modification that involves spraying saltwater particles into the air to thicken or brighten clouds, theoretically increasing their reflectivity and partially blocking the sun’s rays. 

Deploying Marine Cloud Brightening at scale would bring a host of new environmental and social impacts, potentially putting billions of peoples’ human rights at risk. Like all geoengineering techniques, it is impossible to test for its intended climate impact without large-scale deployment, which would lock in any harmful consequences. Small-scale experiments like this one therefore tend to serve as technology development. 

Deployed at scale, Marine Cloud Brightening would not reverse the climate crisis but create a different climate change potentially exacerbating droughts, hurricanes, and flooding far from the deployment site. It would also result in increased and uncontrollable salt deposition on land and in waterways, corroding infrastructure and harming agriculture, while the use of huge volumes of seawater would kill substantial marine life with cascading impacts on ocean food chains, fisheries, and coastal communities. 

Commenting ahead of the June 4 meeting, Center for International Environmental Law Geoengineering Campaign Manager Mary Church said:

“Geoengineering our planet does nothing to solve the root causes of climate change; instead it introduces a range of new potential environmental and social risks, from exacerbating extreme weather, harming agriculture and fisheries, and altering food chains, to impacting the human rights of billions of people. Geoengineering experiments, like the Marine Cloud Brightening project in the Bay Area, set a dangerous precedent and risk legitimizing a highly-speculative and harmful technology. 

“Any decision on geoengineering experiments must consider the transboundary and planetary nature of such technologies, as everyone on this planet could be affected by large-scale deployment. The Alameda City Council should take note that governments around the world have agreed to a global moratorium and are moving to introduce more restrictive regulations for marine geoengineering. We strongly urge Alameda City Council members to consider the wider consequences of this project when they meet on June 4, and say no to geoengineering and yes to a healthy planet.”

Benjamin Day, Friends of the Earth US Senior Campaigner for Climate & Energy Justice,  said: 

“It is incredibly disturbing to see a group of researchers developing technology that could have catastrophic impacts on global weather patterns. The hubris that we can dominate and control earth’s systems is exactly the thinking that is driving climate change in the first place when it comes to our extraction and use of fossil fuels. Lacking federal oversight, local communities and indigenous groups have had to organize opposition to geoengineering projects on a case-by-case basis.

“The researchers themselves who are developing this cloud brightening technology say they hope humanity will never have to use it – but once scientists have developed a new technology, as we know well from history, they will not be able to control whether, when, or how it gets used. We call on the Alameda City Council to reject this dangerous experiment, for the sake of our communities and the climate.”

Notes to Editors: The Center for International Environmental Law and Friends of the Earth US are members of the Hands Off Mother Earth! Alliance — an international civil society network of nearly 200 organizations from more than 45 different countries which has raised concerns about the Marine Cloud Brightening experiment with Alameda City Council members. In a statement issued Wednesday, more than 70 groups called on governments to prevent outdoor marine geoengineering experiments from taking place, to avoid the legitimization of this dangerous distraction to real climate action, and avoid the slippery slope to deployment. 

For more information see https://www.ciel.org/issue/geoengineering/ 


Lindsey Jurca, Communications Specialist at Center for International Environmental Law: [email protected]

Erika Seiber, Press Officer at Friends of the Earth: [email protected]


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