Late last year, a California company named Make Sunsets released sulfur dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere as part of a geoengineering experiment conducted in Baja California, Mexico hoping to block out the sun in hopes of eventually cooling the planet. Recently, the government of Mexico weighed in blocking the group’s efforts.
The tiny startup Make Sunsets, which had been experimenting with releasing sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight in order to cool the earth, said Wednesday it would cease operations for the time being and review its approach after the Mexican government cracked down on solar geoengineering.
The idea of releasing aerosols into the atmosphere to cool the earth has been around since the 1960′s, but it had largely been relegated to science fiction until recently, as the urgency of climate change has become more apparent. The White House is currently coordinating a five-year research plan to study the idea, which is colloquially known as “solar geoengineering,” and the quadrennial U.N.-backed Montreal Protocol assessment report for the first time included an entire chapter it.
Luke Iseman, a serial inventor and the former director of hardware at Y Combinator, believed all of that research was not happening fast enough. So he started tinkering with releasing sulfur dioxide particles into the atmosphere with balloons, raised venture capital to fund the startup, and brought on co-founder Andrew Song to manage sales.
Make Sunsets was planning to launch three latex weather balloons that would release anywhere between 10 and 500 grams of sulfur dioxide in January. But many industry watchers criticized its plans for being hasty and lacking sophistication.
Soon after being stopped, CNBC also eports Make Sunsets issued a public apology on their website for their reckless behavior in engaging in the activity without taking into account potential consequences and a lack of scientific oversight or research to back up their efforts.
If Make Sunset had gone ahead with their project, there are untold amounts of health problems that could have resulted. If past experience with acid rain is any indication, there could have been potential weather problems due to the introduction of sulfur compounds pumped into the air. Thankfully, this geoengineering effort has been brought to a halt.
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