On 13 January, the Mexican government announced a moratorium on solar geoengineering experiments following an unauthorised small-scale experiment by a US start-up.
Geoengineering is a controversial science of manipulating the climate for the stated purpose of fighting man-made climate change. There are several types of geoengineering, including Solar Radiation Management (“SRM”) or solar geoengineering. Stratospheric aerosol injection, or SAI, is a specific solar geoengineering practice which involves spraying aerosols into the sky in an attempt to deflect the Sun’s rays.
In December 2022, Luke Iseman, the CEO of Make Sunsets, the company behind the experiment, announced to the world that he had released two weather balloons filled with reflective sulphur particles as part of a publicity stunt meant to spark conversation around the science of geoengineering.
Iseman launched the balloons in Baja California, Mexico without seeking approval from the Mexican government or local authorities. This prompted the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources to release a statement condemning the experiment and banning further solar geoengineering attempts until further notice. The Mexican government also said it will practice the precautionary principle to protect communities and the environment against the potential dangers of geoengineering.
The Secretariat noted that “studies show negative impacts due to the release of these aerosols and that they cause meteorological imbalances”. The statement also mentions previous international agreements which are designed to limit the use of geoengineering techniques, including the 2010 United Nations (“UN”) Convention on Biological Diversity, which established a moratorium on the deployment of geoengineering.
The Centre for International Environmental Law applauded Mexico’s response and called on “all governments to take steps to ban solar geoengineering outdoor experiments, technology development, and deployment.”
Luke Iseman, CEO of Make Sunsets, appears to be something of a climate change extremist. In December, Iseman told Climate Change News that the experiment was “part entrepreneurial and part provocation, an act of geoengineering activism”. Iseman also said that within his company, “We joke slash not joke that this is partly a company and partly a cult.”
The Potential Dangers of Solar Geoengineering
The Mexican Secretariat promised further coordination with experts to review the existing scientific research to “expose the serious risks that solar geoengineering practices represent for the environment, peoples and their community settings”. The Secretariat also acknowledged that:
“There are enough studies that show that there would be negative and unequal impacts associated with the release of these aerosols, which cause meteorological imbalances such as winds and torrential rains, as well as droughts in tropical areas; in addition to generating impacts on the thinning of the planet’s ozone layer.”
For the last decade Derrick Brozei, a staff writer for The Last American Vagabond, has reported on studies highlighting the dangers posed by solar geoengineering. In 2018, he reported that a team at the University of California, Berkeley found evidence that geoengineering will likely reduce the yields of certain crops.
One of the other dangers of solar geoengineering is the potential loss of blue skies. According to a report by the New Scientist, Ben Kravitz of the Carnegie Institution for Science has shown that releasing sulphate aerosols high in the atmosphere would scatter sunlight into the atmosphere. He says this could decrease the amount of sunlight that hits the ground by 20% and make the sky appear hazier.
Although several authorities have warned about the dangers of geoengineering techniques, the risks are seen as secondary to the perceived risks of climate change. The interesting thing to note is that although proponents of geoengineering hail it as the solution to climate change and sustaining life, research indicates that geoengineering could actually have the reverse effect of heating the Earth.
According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, if geoengineering programs were started and then suddenly halted the planet could see an immediate rise in temperatures, particularly over land.
Further, in February 2015, an international committee of scientists found that solar geoengineering techniques are likely to present “serious known and possible unknown environmental, social, and political risks, including the possibility of being deployed unilaterally.”
As more studies confirm the dangers posed by geoengineering technologies it’s time for an honest public conversation about the reality of geoengineering programs. While any suggestion that these programs may actually already be taking place is derided as the “chemtrails conspiracy theory”, one must only look at the history of US military and intelligence interest in modifying and controlling the weather. Both the US military and the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) are interested in geoengineering technology.
Geoengineering itself is part of a broader category of weather manipulation technology that also includes more common tools like cloud seeding. Cloud seeding was used in the Vietnam War as the US military attempted to flood the Viet Gong with rain storms as part of Operation Popeye.
In 2015, Brozei reported that Professor Alan Robock gave a speech where he discussed the possibility that the CIA is using the weather as a weapon of war. Robock has previously conducted research for the intergovernmental panel on climate change (“IPCC”). Robock stated he was phoned by two men claiming to be from the CIA, asking whether or not hostile governments could use geoengineering against the United States.
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