Geoengineering start-up receives heavy criticism

Start-up Make Sunsets says it started small-scale geoengineering, with sulfate particles injected into the stratosphere to deflect the sun’s rays and reduce global warming from the sun. This sparked new conversations about when and if such interventions should be implemented to address climate change.

Luke Iseman and Andrew Song, founders of Make Sunsets, say they’ve already done two test flights to create little clouds with the particles. Make Sunsets is also selling $10 “cool credits” to support future missions into the atmosphere, with the goal of generating revenue and increasing the delivery of sun-blocking particles via reusable balloons.

The company claims that one gram of particulate matter purchased using the credit will offset the warming effect of one tonne of carbon over a year. The engineered “clouds” remain in the atmosphere between six months and three years, depending on the latitude at which they are released and the height at which they reach the atmosphere.

Iseman and Song kept their project relatively quiet until Saturday, when MIT Technology Review published an article about their progress and, more importantly, the ethical dimensions and scientific and geopolitical concerns surrounding their actions.


Unserious geoengineering

Some pundits view Make Sunsets as a lame effort designed to stoke geoengineering controversy, while others have launched a litany of objections to deploying particle clouds without oversight or control, and acting in outside the global scientific community.

“The company’s behavior plays on long-standing fears that a ‘rogue’ actor with no particular knowledge of atmospheric science or the implications of the technology could unilaterally opt for climate geoengineering,” writes the author. author James Temple, “Without any type of consensus on whether it’s okay to do so, or what the appropriate global average temperature should be.

“That’s because it’s relatively cheap and technically simple to manufacture, at least in a crude way,” he added.

However, scientists do not yet know what will happen if solar radiation management (SRM) techniques are implemented on a large scale. Experts like David Keith and his colleagues at Harvard University are studying solar engineering and aerosols, and Germany and the UK are among other Western countries where scientists are studying the techniques.

As the United States and other developed countries approve research funding, scientists in the Global South fear that solar geoengineering could have economic, environmental and health consequences for billions of people without the consensus of their leaders. Temple points out that Make Sunsets launched its tests from Mexico, without any public engagement or scientific review.


The London-based DEGREES initiative is an organization working to ensure equity and access to solar radiation management research for scientists in Kenya, Bangladesh, the Philippines and other concerned countries. by how geoengineering could affect agriculture or make natural disasters worse.

But the Make Sunsets initiative doesn’t seem concerned with consensus, at least at this point.

“Since the publication of the MIT Technology Review article, we have been amazed and amused by the responses,” the company posted on its Twitter account on Monday. “To the supporters and scientists who believe in us, thank you.”

By Lauren Fagan. Articles in English

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