Make Sunsets start-up says it has begun releasing sulfur particles into Earth’s atmosphere in an attempt to fight climate change by deflecting sunlight, writes Gizmodo.
Make Sunsets sells “cooling credits” for $10 each and bids on the solar geoengineering to cool the planet (and make money). The company claims on its website that it has already released two test balloons, each filled with approximately 10 grams of sulfur particles and intended for the stratosphere, according to the company’s website.
The concept of solar geoengineering is simple: add light-reflecting particles to the upper atmosphere to reduce the amount of sunlight that penetrates from space, thereby cooling the Earth. This idea is inspired by the atmospheric side effects of large volcanic eruptions, which have repeatedly led to dramatic temporary climate changes throughout history, including the infamous “year without summer” of 1816.
While we know that sulfur particles can reflect sunlight away from Earth and cool the planet, the unintended consequences of doing so are less well understood and potentially catastrophic. Some studies suggest that adding sulfur over the northern hemisphere will lead to massive droughts in the Sahel, the Amazon rainforest and other places. Conversely, adding sulfur over the southern hemisphere can dramatically increase the number of Atlantic hurricanes in the Northern Hemisphere.
Also, once we get enough sulfur in the atmosphere to cool the Earth significantly, we’ll need to keep adding new particles indefinitely to avoid entering an era of climate change that’s about four to six times worse than the one we’re experiencing now, according to research in 2018. Sulfur aerosols do not last very long. Their lifetime in the stratosphere ranges from a few days to a few years, depending on the size of the particles and other factors.
Presumably, while this theoretical geoengineering is going on, we will still be adding greenhouse gases and sulfur particles to the atmosphere. If at some point the sulfur addition system fails, CO2 and methane will warm the planet rapidly and simultaneously. Ecosystems will be out of balance as animals and plants find themselves in an artificially cooled climate and ocean acidification will continue unabated.
Make Sunsets founder Luke Iseman is apparently leading all earthlings to this disaster without any regulatory approval or international permission.
Fraudsters who independently decide to impose geoengineering on the rest of the people have been a concern since the idea of intentional manipulation of the atmosphere appeared. The Pentagon even has special research groups working on methods to detect and combat such clandestine attempts. But effectively defending against solar geoengineering is much more difficult than just doing it.
Geoengineering will almost certainly be part of future climate efforts, whether or not all experts agree on it. The Biden administration formally approved funding for solar geoengineering research earlier this year. And as the effects of unrelenting climate change accelerate, the idea has moved from the realm of speculation and science fiction into mainstream discussion. But to prevent solar geoengineering from becoming another man-made climate disaster, much more (and much more thorough) research is needed into this strategy.
The solution to the problem of climate change is almost certainly not to “disrupt” the composition of the Earth’s stratosphere. But that didn’t stop Make Sunsets from raising nearly $750,000 from venture capital firms. And for another ~$29,250,000 per year, the company claims, it can completely offset current warming.