Climate change refers to the long-term warming of the planet due to the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and can lead to a wide range of impacts, including more frequent heatwaves and extreme weather events, sea level rise, and changes in the availability of water. These impacts can have significant consequences for human health and well-being, as well as for the natural environment.
In an attempt to combat climate change, a start-up called Make Sunsets, launched weather balloons capable of releasing reflective sulfur particles into the earth’s atmosphere. Sulfur particles in the atmosphere can have an effect on climate change, as these can scatter and absorb sunlight, which can have a cooling effect on the Earth’s surface. When sulfur dioxide (SO2) is emitted into the atmosphere and reacts with other chemicals, it can form tiny sulfur particles that can remain suspended in the air for a period of time. These particles can reflect sunlight back into space and reduce the amount of solar energy that reaches the Earth’s surface. This can lead to a cooling effect on the planet.
The solar geoengineering method used by Make Sunsets, is highly controversial because the overall effect of sulfur particles on climate change is complex and not fully understood. While they may have a cooling effect on the planet, they can also have negative impacts on air quality and human health. Luke Iseman, the cofounder and CEO of Make Sunsets, acknowledges that launching the weather balloons may make him “look like the Bond villain is going to be helpful to certain groups…It’s morally wrong, in my opinion, for us not to be doing this,” he added. What’s important is “to do this as quickly and safely as we can.”
Make Sunsets hopes to increase the sulfur payloads, add telemetry equipment and other sensors, while attempting to earn revenue by selling “cooling credits” for 10$. “We launch (reflective, high altitude, biodegradable) clouds. They reflect the sun. Cooling the world so you have time to fix it. Buy cooling credits now. Your [pictures of a baby, seal, snowflake, planet earth] will thank you. COOL EARTH,” states the company’s website.
David Keith, one of the world’s leading experts on solar geoengineering is against the commercial work on such technologies, writing “commercial development cannot produce the level of transparency and trust the world needs to make sensible decisions about deployment.”