Home News Alameda City Council unanimously blocks climate change project from resuming

Alameda City Council unanimously blocks climate change project from resuming

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Alameda’s City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to bar a climate change-related experiment on the deck of the USS Hornet from resuming, despite an earlier report that found that the project posed no health or safety risks to local residents or wildlife.

The council voted on the measure after presentations by city employees and researchers from the experiment, which shoots microscopic droplets of salt water into the sky to determine whether they can become more reflective to block excess heat from the Sun making it to Earth’s surface. Some at the meeting expressed consternation that the city had not been made aware of the experiment before it began and voiced continued concerns about its possible health impacts.

The city manager’s recommendation to the council advised allowing the experiment to continue with the addition of new limits, including the use of air quality monitors and only allowing work at certain times of the day.

At the meeting, Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft expressed her disappointment that she learned about the experiment by reading the news and derided a lack of transparency.

“Was it intentional? Was it an oversight?” Ashcraft said. “It just wasn’t the best way to get started.

“There are so many different competing considerations we need to take into effect, and I don’t feel that you’ve made your case,” Ashcraft said after representatives from the city and experiment presented. “I don’t have a huge burning desire to be on the cutting edge of everything.”

The Marine Cloud Brightening Project began tests in April, with fanfare and presentations of the experiment to curious reporters. Researchers from the University of Washington set up on the upper deck of the USS Hornet, a former World War II-era aircraft carrier now docked in Alameda as a museum, to take advantage of the Bay Area’s often-cloudy skies.

The Alameda City Council asked the researchers to pause the experiment in early May on the grounds that it was a violation of the Hornet’s lease with the city, which only allows for museum operations.

The city then commissioned an independent health and safety review of the experiment, which found no measurable health risk to local residents or wildlife when it was released last week.

Researchers from the project reiterated the safety of the cloud brightening experiment, pointing to the results of both Alameda’s independent review and their own safety review. The research into these aerosol effects is “increasingly critical to improving tools for planning and responding to climate change to better protect people and ecosystems,” according to a joint statement from Sarah Doherty, the program’s director of the Marine Cloud Brightening Program, principal investigator Rob Wood and Kelly Wanser, executive director of SilverLining, an organization helping to find and test potential climate solutions like the cloud project.

“We are disappointed by the decision from the City of Alameda,” they said in the statement. “While we are already exploring alternative paths forward for the CAARE research, we urge the City of Alameda to reconsider today’s decision.

“The opportunity to undertake this research in a fully open and transparent way at a site like the USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum is unparalleled in its potential to increase access and equitable engagement for all people, and especially for Indigenous Peoples and other vulnerable and underserved communities,” Doherty, Wood and Wanser added.

The USS Hornet museum plans to follow up with the city to see if there is a potential path forward, Russell Moore, the museum’s director of events and outreach for the USS Hornet Museum, said in a statement.

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