Mexico bans solar geoengineering after startup gambit

Mexico bans solar geoengineering after startup gambit

Mexico bans solar geoengineering after startup gambit

In 1991, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines sent 20 million metric tons of sulfur aerosols into the atmosphere. Once airborne, the particles reflected incoming sunlight back into space, resulting in a noticeable cooling in global temperatures over the next two years and reigniting a debate over the possibility of purposefully replicating the process to combat global warming.

In the later years of the climate crisis, there have been numerous arguments for and against the controversial form of geoengineering ever since. However, experts largely agree on one thing: we are a long way from confidently conducting real-world testing in a way that reduces the potential for horrible, unintended environmental consequences. But that didn’t seem to stop Luke Iseman, CEO of startup Make Sunsets, from trying it late last year in Baja California.

Last week, Mexico made it very clear that it would not accept.

Less than a month after news broke of Iseman’s unauthorized launch of two small weather balloons containing less than 10 grams of sulfur dioxide, the Mexican government’s Secretariat for the Environment and Natural Resources announced a ban on any future similar solar geoengineering. As The Verge explained on Wednesday, the ban is aimed at protecting local communities and the country’s environment, as there are no international regulations in place on similar experimentation.

[Related: Is blocking out the sun a good solution to the climate crisis?]

Iseman’s tests were extremely small – a commercial jet emits about 100 grams of sulfur dioxide per minute, for comparison – and, by his own admission, represented “science project territory … to confirm that I could do this”. . Iseman added that Make Sunsets didn’t even track the balloons to see if they rose high enough to successfully deliver their payloads.

Of course, critics lambasted the inflammatory hit, labeling Making Sunsets hypocritical for “violating the rights of [local] communities to dictate their own future,” said Kelly Wanser, executive director of the nonprofit climate research organization SilverLining. MIT Technology Review last month.

This does not mean that variations of solar geoengineering cannot be further explored, of course, but that they need to be carried out responsibly, in good faith and with great transparency. Iseman, talking to The Vergetold them on Wednesday that all future release plans for Making Sunsets are “indefinitely on hold” at the moment.

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