By Cassandra Garrison
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – On an April day, the founder of a U.S. startup called Make Sunsets stands in a car in Baja California, Mexico. outside the camper van, and released two weather balloons that spewed sulfur dioxide into the air, allowing them to float into the stratosphere.
Entrepreneur Luke Iseman says sulfur dioxide in balloons deflects sunlight and cools the atmosphere, a controversial climate strategy known as solar geoengineering . Mexico said the launch violated its national sovereignty.
Iseman, 39 said he didn’t know what happened to the balloon. But the unauthorized release, made public in January, has already had an impact: It has sparked a cascade of reactions that could set the rules for future geoengineering research, notably by private companies in Mexico and around the world.
The Mexican government told Reuters it is now actively drafting “new regulations and standards” to ban solar geoengineering in the country. Mexico also plans to join other countries in banning climate strategies, a senior government official told Reuters. There have been no previous reports of geoengineering bans with other countries.
“Progress is being made…to prepare new regulations and norms for geoengineering, that is, to advance the official Mexican standards prohibiting the above-mentioned activities within the national territory,” Mexico’s environment ministry said in a statement. in a written statement to Reuters.
The Mexican backlash comes as a growing number of scientists and policymakers urge further research into solar geoengineering, recognizing that cutting emissions alone will not limit dangerous climate change, And more innovation may be needed.
Global geoengineering ban
Mexico has the ability to help set the rules for future geoengineering research, climate policy experts say.
“Countries like Mexico can start to unite other countries and say: ‘Let’s work together to solve this problem and see how together we can ban it or make it happen normally,'” said Janos Pasztor , executive director of the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G), which advises on the governance of solar geoengineering and other climate change technologies.
Mexico’s environment ministry stated it would explore using the Convention on Biological Diversity’s call for a moratorium on “climate-related geoengineering activities” to enforce its ban.
Mexico, too, will try to find ways to align with other countries on Earth at this year’s COP global climate summit in the United Arab Emirates, senior environment ministry official Agustin Avila told Reuters. common ground in engineering.
The Mexican government said the Make Sunsets balloon launch highlighted ethical issues with allowing private companies to undertake geoengineering activities.
“Why did this US-based company come to do experiments in Mexico instead of in the US?” Avila said.
Iseman told Reuters in an email that he chose Mexico because “most researchers report that particles launched into the stratosphere near the tropics stay longer, producing more Cool down more.” Plus, he has a truck and a camper in Baja and thinks the area is beautiful, he wrote.
David Keith, a professor of applied physics and public policy at Harvard who has devoted much of his research to solar geoengineering, Eastman’s launch was a “gimmick” “.
Iseman has a background in business, not science, but says he consults with climate scientists. Other innovative startups are ridiculed in their early days, he said. “We wouldn’t have to do this if ‘responsible experts’ solved the problem,” he said in an email to manufacturers and scientists as a possible solution to climate change, and with limited funding for research.
The strategy, also known as solar radiation management, is designed to simulate the natural cooling effect of a volcanic eruption that reflects off the ash cloud. Enough sunlight would reduce the Earth’s temperature by using airplanes or balloons to disperse tiny particles in the stratosphere. warming.
Last month, 39 scientists including former NASA climate scientist James Hansen signed a letter supporting further research.
The Degrees Initiative, a UK-based NGO, awarded $900,000 for Scientists in Chile, India, Nigeria, and other countries study the effects of solar geoengineering on weather patterns, wildlife, and glaciers.
The United Nations Environment Program also recommended further research into geoengineering in late February.
But some scientists still oppose further research, arguing that large-scale intervention in the atmosphere has the potential to trigger extreme and unpredictable weather changes, including major droughts that seriously affect agriculture and food supplies.
In , the Swedish government shelved a study led by Harvard’s Keith after indigenous Sami accused researchers of disrespecting “Mother Earth” , the group plans to spray calcium carbonate dust into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight. The Overshoot Commission, a think tank focused on developing strategies to reduce the risk of warming beyond 1.5C, said the Make Sunsets incident highlighted the urgency of developing a regulatory framework that would allow further research into geoengineering and set safe and equ
“The example of Mexico shows us that considering whether to use it is not only a matter of governance, but also requires governance at the research stage,” she said. “People can’t go around the world and do field trials without some kind of oversight.”
Eastman said he would welcome clearer regulation but the international community was “too slow to move “.
A spokesman for the Mexican Ministry of the Environment said that Mexico has not yet set a date for the implementation of the ban.
It is unclear what the ban’s likely impact will be. Keith believes the ban is unenforceable. “You can’t write legislation saying you can’t put sulfur in the stratosphere because every commercial flight does that,” he told Reuters.
Others point out that Earthquakes are prohibited on Mexican soil. The project will offer no protection from the planetary-scale effects of future experiments by any of its neighbors.
“It could really happen next door. In terms of impact on the world, it’s the same,” Pasztor said
Meanwhile, Make Sunsets in February 000 said in a blog post that three more launches took place near Reno, Nevada. NOAA told Reuters that it is required to report any activity aimed at artificially altering the composition, behavior or dynamics of the atmosphere to NOAA’s Office of Weather Programs before such projects or activities begin.
Iseman said he did seek permission from the Federal Aviation Administration, but did not disclose that the balloon contained sulfur dioxide. “As far as I know, there are no rules requiring us to do this – or even anyone who needs to be notified,” he said.