∎ Mexico bans solar geoengineering experiments after startup’s field tests - Reading Session 202301191446

Last updated Jan 19, 2023 | Originally published Jan 19, 2023

The company, called Make Sunsets, conducted the field tests without prior notice or consent from the Mexican government.

This is one of the scary consequences of democratizing technology: volatility. It is getting easier for small teams to take big actions without oversight.

And this is a well-intended initiative. The opposite of this would be ecological or environmental terrorism against businesses or governments perceived to be direct contributors to climate change, which surely will happen as climate change advances and people get desperate.

At least this test was small:

Iseman says he launched two balloons in Baja California last year, each carrying less than 10 grams of sulfur dioxide. That’s a tiny amount of the compound that’s typically released into the air by fossil fuel power plants and volcanoes in much larger quantities — so the release isn’t likely to have had much impact.

The business model is interesting:

Founded in October 2022, Make Sunsets started with the grandiose vision of releasing enough sulfur dioxide to offset global warming from all the world’s CO2 emissions annually. It’s already selling “cooling credits” for the service at $10 per gram of sulfur dioxide — even though it has yet to achieve any measurable impact and can’t guarantee that releasing sulfur dioxide at a bigger scale wouldn’t trigger any unintended problems.

This has obvious parallels with Climeworks, who was recently paid by a few big tech companies to pull carbon from the atmosphere. It is hard to imagine this business model working at scale, though… surely there is a kind of prisoner’s dilemma at play that will keep every company from chipping in. Perhaps we need regulators to require businesses to purchase credits like these to properly recognize the environmental costs of business.