A startup has released weather balloons that released reflective sulfur particles into the stratosphere. Thus, at the end of the year, a controversial barrier in the field of solar geoengineering was crossed, writes the publication of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT Technology Review.
After their experience, the company Make Sunsets started selling “cooling credits”. They will sponsor future flights with balloons that can release larger amounts of particles.
The test was conducted in Mexico. Make Sunsets did not seek approval from the local administration to carry it out.
Potential investors who have reviewed the startup’s pitches say they don’t see a serious scientific effort or a viable business. According to them, Make Sunsets aims to provoke a debate on the subject.
Geoengineering is already an intriguing field for many philanthropists. In 2021, Bill Gates funded a Harvard University project to inject particles into the stratosphere. However, the test was stopped after protests by environmentalists and the concerns of the general public.
Luke Eisman, co-founder and CEO of Make Sunsets, admits his efforts are also provocative. The first test was described as an “act of geoengineering activism”.
According to Eisman, the experiment was aimed at stimulating public debate. So far, geoengineering faces great difficulties in conducting field experiments.
According to Make Sunsets, injecting particles into the stratosphere can reduce the amount of light that reaches the ground. This in turn would lower temperatures. The technology mimics a natural process that occurs after large volcanic eruptions.
Geoengineering is very controversial. Little is known about the actual effect of deliberate interventions on a large scale. They can have dangerous side effects. Direct interference with the amount of light reaching the Earth can lead not only to extreme winters, but also poor harvests, which in turn could cause world hunger.
The impacts could also be worse in some regions than others, which could provoke geopolitical conflicts.
“We joke that we are part company and part cult” says Eisman.
Before Make Sunsets, Eisman was director of hardware at Y Combinator. It is one of the largest professional investors in startups. The company helps Airbnb, Coinbase, Cruise, DoorDash, Dropbox, Instacart, Quora, PagerDuty, Reddit, Stripe and Twitch become a reality.
“Climate change is such a serious threat, and the world is moving so slowly, that more radical interventions are needed. I think it is morally wrong not to do that“, commented the geoengineering Eisman.
Critics stress that the time to engage the public should have been before the company began injecting material into the stratosphere and trying to sell “cooling credits.”