In a bizarre reversal of roles, while the iCon of revolution against ticky tacky boxes, Steve Jobs is calling in the cops on the free press, convicted monopolist and resident Dr Evil, Microsoft’s Bill Gates spending a fortune trying to save the world from global warming.
Gates is funding research into machines to suck up ten tonnes of seawater every second and spray it upwards. This would seed vast banks of white clouds to reflect the Sun’s rays away from Earth.
The move to find a technological solution to global warming follows a complete late of movement from politicians and an effort from big business interests to discredit scientific evidence related to it.
There are several suggested methods of cooling the planet, collectively known as geo-engineering.
Some include rockets to deploy millions of mirrors in the stratosphere and artificial trees to suck carbon dioxide from the air. All these are a bit pricy.
But a study last year calculated that a fleet of 1,900 ships costing £5 billion could arrest the rise in temperature by criss-crossing the oceans and spraying seawater from tall funnels to whiten clouds and increase their reflectivity.
Silver Lining, a research body in San Francisco, has received £204,000 from Gates. It will develop machines to convert seawater into microscopic particles capable of being blown up to the cloud level of 1,000 metres. This would whiten clouds by increasing the number of nuclei.
A trail of ten ships and 3,800 square miles of ocean is being tried. Armand Neukermanns, who is leading the research, said that whitening clouds was “the most benign form of engineering” because, while it might alter rainfall, the effects would cease soon after the machines were switched off.
Other suggested types of geo-engineering, such as spraying reflective sulphate particles in the stratosphere, would have much longer effects on weather patterns and might backfire.