Geoengineering research has a problem. That much should be clear following last week's cancellation of a field trial for the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) project. The solutions to this problem are not so obvious, but they must be found — and fast.
The SPICE field trial was supposed to involve spraying water into the atmosphere at an altitude of 1 kilometre using a balloon and hosepipe, as part of a host of work exploring whether it is possible to mitigate global warming by introducing particles into the stratosphere to reflect some of the Sun's energy away from Earth.
But the field trial — which is only a small part of the overall SPICE project — became bogged down in protests and delays almost as soon as it was announced. Last week, as first reported by Nature, the project's lead investigator announced that it was being abandoned, citing concerns about intellectual-property rights, public engagement and the overall governance regime for such work.