A start-up has alienated the scientific community by releasing sulfur dioxide particles into the atmosphere via weather balloons. It was to test a controversial theory on solar geoengineering, which could reduce global warming… if it presented no danger.
Make Sunsets, a start-up officially founded in California last October, shocked the scientific community. The company created by Luke Iseman sent two weather balloons into the stratosphere a few months earlier containing a few grams of sulfur dioxide. The balloons had to end up burning and releasing the famous particles. But in the absence of measurement and monitoring tools during the test, it is impossible to say whether the experiment was successful.
Make Sunsets, the start-up through which the scandal arrives
The whole problem with Make Sunsets is that it’s all about getting a cheap publicity stunt, at the expense of the planet. Because solar geoengineering, on which the start-up relies to justify its actions, is very controversial in the scientific community. The general idea is to manipulate the climate: in theory, diffusing enough sulfur dioxide and similar particles into the atmosphere could limit global warming by reducing solar radiation.
Except that this technique is also likely to cause disasters on Earth, with side effects that could impact entire regions and cause geopolitical conflicts. Luke Iseman is well aware of this controversy, since for him it was a militant act. He believes that climate change is too important a matter not to act, moreover he did not ask the authorities or the scientific agencies.
Except that this release of balloons seems to be primarily a marketing operation. Because in parallel, Make Sunsets sells “credits” at $10 per gram of sulfur dioxide. Customers have already knocked on the door of the start-up to order balloon launches, while such an action requires a consensus among scientists, and international coordination.