Last summer, I commented on the hostile tenor of reporting on geoengineering by the Guardian newspaper (see The Guardian Against Geoengineering?, 6/16/11). Now that coverage has gone from being biased to just plain bad. In a story published Tuesday titled "US Geoengineers to Spray Sun-Reflecting Chemicals from Balloon," a Guardian reporter stated that "Two Harvard engineers are to spray sun-reflecting chemical particles into the atmosphere to artificially cool the planet, using a balloon flying 80,000 feet over Fort Sumner, New Mexico." This experiment, the story continues, "will take place within a year and involve release of tens or hundreds of kilograms of particles to measure the impacts on ozone chemistry."
The problem with this report is that, quite simply, no such experiment is planned. Nor is funding in place. Nor has a proposal been written. The assertions regarding schedule ("within a year"), location ("Fort Sumner, New Mexico"), and method ("release of tens or hundreds of kilograms of particles") are all false. As David Keith, one of the engineers cited, succinctly put it, "The story is substantially fabricated" (emphasis original). (In addition to these inaccuracies, the story also mischaracterizes the SPICE research project and uncritically presents a global map of geoengineering activities produced by the ETC Group.)
The Guardian is entitled to its opinion about geoengineering. But it is not entitled to make up facts. This story falls far short of any reasonable set of journalistic standards, and ought to be corrected in full. The geoengineering debate, including its critics, deserves better than this.