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Rogue geoengineering startup attempts to affect atmosphere despite warnings (jpost.com)
113 points by pinewurst on Dec 28, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 177 comments



This is part of the plot of my current holiday read: Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson (published 2021). Given that the startup was founded in Oct 2022 [1], I wonder if they were inspired by the book.

[1]: https://makesunsets.com/pages/about


We were.


I know your intentions here are good.

However, you aren’t being “edgy” or “bold”, you are being unwise.

This is not a place to shoot from the hip.

Rationalizing from science fiction, has serious failure-modes, and your approach risks poisoning public support for an important climate intervention.

If you want to do right by this, you need to steelman the scientists critical of your work. Reflect back to them the best version of their argument until they agree that you understand it.


Or just do what public policy did for medicine in the last five years.


I recall the PayPal peeps were similarly inspired by Cryptonomicon. It's incredible how much influence Neal Stephenson's imagination has!


You realize if you harm the environment unilaterally, people will execute you — right?


Just playing devil's advocate but are you being facetious? Because I'm pretty sure the execs at Dupont have not been executed, and there's not many companies with a bigger environmental impact than Dupont at least with chemicals in our drinking water, other than oil companies of course but you could argue those are secondary effects since most of the damage comes from a resource they sell and use.


The key is to nationalize the harm; People are blind to the pollution when government does it, and if they do notice, you can blame the opposition, or just resign. Nobody who really screws up gets held accountable in government unless it helps someone get elected, so be sure to have dirt on enough people.


Whats it like being a rogue?


According to the CEOs words in the article, the better question how it is being a bind villain leading a cult.

Not sure how releasing sulfur into the atmosphere can be legal so.


> Not sure how releasing sulfur into the atmosphere can be legal so.

At a guess: nobody thought to make a law against it yet and/or nobody with power has yet tried to apply an existing law to it.


>At a guess: nobody thought to make a law against it yet and/or nobody with power has yet tried to apply an existing law to it.

This was the most surprising thing we discovered, it's the wild west. The closest thing we found was https://2009-2017.state.gov/t/isn/4783.htm. We're not hostile, we come in peace.


You're willfully releasing pollutants into the atmosphere to see what happens, and hoping something good will come of it.

I very very much doubt this can't be shut down by some environmental agency, if they only care to look. Even if there is no specific law about it, you can't normally just release stuff into the shared environment - you have to have some kind of dispensation for it (like the oil and coal industries unfortunately have for their own pollution, for example).


So I hope your actions turn it into not-Wild West anymore.

Launching sulfur into the stratosphere with the noble goal of increasing Earth's albedo might sound good locally but you don't seem to have applied any systems theory or scientific experiments to understand what complex interactions your actions might generate. The atmosphere is not a simple system, your actions might have very unintended consequences and you don't even seem phased by that...


Because one could make the point, that this companies goal is to make ten bucks per credit off of people that fall for all there we-save-the-world crap. So there won#t be more than trace amounts of sulfur up there, if at all. And yes, even it would scale they don't seem to care too much. makes me somehow think of the Klean, with a K, billionaire type from "Glass Onion".


> We're not hostile, we come in peace.

Bearing gifts of free blankets!

Since you're calling this the "wild west," I sure hope you know your history.


The idea that the US gave smallpox infected blankets to Indians is a myth that was circulating in various 1960s underground subcultures, many of which were collated and published -- without any footnotes or sources -- by Howard Zinn in his "People's History".

Many have tried to trace down some proof of this happening, but no one has been able to do it. Others have tried to figure out where the anti-American underground that Zinn drew from came up with the idea, and the best they could find is a letter from a British military official speculating that this is something the UK should do to the Indians in their North American colony. But there is no evidence this idea was ever implemented, by the UK or anyone else.

Some lefty professor found the letter, concluded it happened, then during the retelling in various anti-american teach-ins and seminars, this changed from British doing it during the colonial era to the US doing it, time shifted to the civil war era in the wild west. But it never happened. It is one of many fabricated events in "People's History", but to be fair, Zinn didn't make it up, he just collected all the various unsourced rumors circulating in the underground at the time and decided to publish them as fact.

> I sure hope you know your history.

Indeed.


Sounds more like he thinks he's chaotic good, not a blind villain.


I think he meant “Bond villain”. James Bond.


It's like being the first monkey in space. You're standing on the shoulders of giants.


That's fitting. The first monkey in space was sacrificed for humanity's self-centered project.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkeys_and_apes_in_space

> The first primate launched into subspace was Albert, a rhesus macaque, who on June 11, 1948, rode a rocket flight to over 63 km (39 mi) in Earth's atmosphere on a V-2 rocket. Albert died of suffocation during the flight and may actually have died in the cramped space capsule before launch.[1][2][3]

Killing Albert was entirely unneeded; we did it because we could.


It's funny, because the image I have in my head is a little monkey wearing a fez, also standing on a shoulder of a giant. The monkey thinks it's important, because everyone's clapping.

I rarely engage in comments like this, but I think what you're doing is irresponsible, selfish, myopic and needs to be pointed out.

Tone down the god complex if you really want to help the cause.


It also figures in The Ministry of the Future, by KSR.


Is there a happy ending in that book?


The whole outrage around this company is the very topic of the novel. It's a bit of a crazy plot and it artificially compresses the timeline a bit. But is not actually that far off the mark in terms of the urgency and the level of desperation that might cause some countries to act sooner than later. Or the violence that that might provoke.

So, the ending of the book is a bit open ended. But it's a "the cat is out of the bag" type ending as well. As in, since we're trying this anyway and it seems to be working, multiple countries start replicating the effort and people move on. By the end of the book, there are multiple countries doing this. And they would be the countries most affected by the consequences of global warming.

There are a few zones in the world where billions of people live that are going to be ground zero for any such effects that are also booming economies. Basically, much of Africa, China, India, etc. And indeed parts of the US with some extremely high value real estate on some of its coastal areas (like Houston, as the book speculates). So, the notion that these people in these economies are just going to sit there fiddling their thumbs until their economies collapse under the effects of global warming is unlikely. When something plausible comes along that works or might work, they'll support it. And some will start acting pro-actively. And others will counter act. It might get ugly.

I think the book mostly got this right and we'll see this play out in slow motion in the next few decades.


So what happens if these interested parties see a lot of success and want to do even better? India and the Middle East are quite hot, it would be a nicer climate if they cooled it down by a few degrees. What would that do to North America, Europe and Asia?


There seems to be a current attempt to get this kind of dangerous nonsense accepted as 'normal'. No doubt the next step is to go for some public support from a 'celebrity' en route to a fully funded trial. Awful awful awful.


> No doubt the next step is to go for some public support from a 'celebrity' en route to a fully funded trial.

Prediction: Americans will make it a Dems vs Reps thing. Pro and Against alignment will largely only depend on who first tweets about it. The other side will just blindly look for arguments against it (regardless of accuracy), even if we found out it performs well.

Now, I don't know if this is a bad or a good thing myself (out of my depth here), but I see why experts would be concerned with this, as I imagine it's got far reaching consequences


You skipped the part where Elon jumps in, one way or the other...


Wait until ppl find out that the whole idea came from Microsoft’s early CTO


So we will get a sulfur-yellow screen of death instead of a blue one?


More like rain of sulphur bugs. But hopefully not.


Nathan Myhrvold to be more specific.

Some people think that Mhyrvold's approach to climate-change-mitigation has already been implemented rather than just being an idea.


Indeed :)


It’s definitely annoying but I wonder if it’s also not entirely bad: We have a built in debate system for any issue that catches people’s attention.


There are no debates anymore. It's all just name calling and stamen attacks


I just felt the urge to look at their website. Is it just me, or is the whole business plan to sell anti-climate-change credits to everyday people for 10 bucks per credit, and accepting all common credit cards? Based on fear over climate change, and selling themselves as the only ones to be able to solve it, at 50k bucks per launch?

Pretty, let's say, optimistic without any scientific proof. If it wasn't for the YC angle, I would call it a scam. Know what, I'd say it is one regardless of YC, after all they funded a start-up that attempted to mate the gig economy with organized smuggling (forgot the name of that fun idea of paying traveling students tu transport all kinds of things past customs in their luggage).


Yeah, there's something going on here, isn't there?


Honestly, I think the Luke Iseman, the founder of Make Sunsets, is just a run of a mill Silicon Valley Dunning-Kruger.

He’s been bouncing around the TEDx circuit (i.e. open mic night for wannabe influencers) for awhile with half thought out environmental/subsistence farming ideas for years now. He’s apparently a good bullshitter for some of the VC crowd, but when you watch him, he’s thoroughly unimpressive. Nothing moves beyond hobby level — nor could it.

Here’s a video of him showing around his projects from a few years ago. Container hydroponics and rocket stoves.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HWIJc144mgQ

After watching this, I’m not afraid of him or Make Sunsets at all.

If you watch him, and then read his interviews about the fallout of Make Sunsets, he says what he did. He put some spoonful of sulfur into a helium balloon. That’s it. He even says, he didn’t measure anything. He doesn’t even know where the balloon ended up. (All those viral videos about launching a cell phone to stratosphere collected more data!) There’s literally NOTHING of use here beyond a press release. He could have accomplished the same by just saying he launched a balloon.

To be perfectly honest. I don’t think the former Director of Hardware for Y Combinator is smart enough to move the climate at all. It’s just selling party balloons and calling them carbon credits.

Now, someone else might be able to do it, but it ain’t this guy.


Unfortunately I linked to the wrong video with him. This is the one I was intending. Apparently, Kristen Dirksen has interviewed him at least three times.

https://youtu.be/oJZQYEkGpCw


Yup, and the real problem is not getting geoengineering itself accepted as normal, but getting rogue geoengineering programs accepted as normal.

Once it seems sort of OK for anyone to do it, it'll become a massive free-for-all, with geoengineering schemes that overlap or compete with different goals. We could easily end up with unintended consequences — dueling programs with net near-zero result but massive new pollution, mutually reinforcing programs that massively overshoot, etc. Then a bigger program to fix that one, and another to fix that one...

I deeply feel the urgency to get started yesterday, and there's an initial feelgood rush reading this. But thinking for a few seconds on the cascading results of allowing rogue efforts and it turning into a free-for-all — sure, let's just play "move fast and break things" with the entire global climate.

No thanks.

We'd be better off choosing to play Global Thermonuclear War (it'd be over in ~48 hours and the global effects would be more brief).


We will be playing global nuclear war in this scenario. What happens when a countries rainfall is deemed not enough so they start seeding rainclouds and stealing the rainwater from neighboring countries that needed them for agriculture.


Good point, we get two-for-one disasters!


  > There seems to be a current attempt to get this kind of dangerous nonsense accepted as 'normal'.
Why not? Society still considers expelling CO2 and NO2 into the atmosphere as 'normal'. Maybe the outrage directed at this effort should be directed at the industries expelling CO2 and NO2 as well.


NOx led to the VW emissions scandal, so we take the quite serious. CO2, well, we should be more aggressive, but it is tackled, e,g, no new ICE cars in the EU after 2035 (?). I still remember dead forests due to acid rain, caused by various sulfur-based shit in the atmosphere, we got rid of that. Same for some of the ozone layer destroyers, we got rid of those, too. That it takes longer to get rid of that crap shouldn't be used to accept start-ups intentionally (as opposed to being a side effect like other industries) polluting, and promoting that, as PR stunts and funding vehicles. Especially since the latter can be so easily stopped.


Well there's breathing, is that not normal?


Presumably there exist multiple organism that live in a balance, some emitting CO2 and other absorbing it. Being a productive member of an ecosystem is fine, but flooding that ecosystem with excessive emissions is not.


In case selling credits doesn't work, they can sell crypto tokens or NFTs, can't they?


Brilliant idea. :)


You think I can claim a percentage from those folks? As royalties for the idea?


Go for it!


The technology is good here. The “move fast and break things” approach is not.


Actually the technology is NOT good. https://archive.vn/AgLi8

"The scariest thing about this proposition is that models suggest that many of the people who could well be most harmed by these technologies are already disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Imagine this: North America decides to send sulfur into the stratosphere to reduce the intensity of the sun, in the hopes of saving its corn crops — despite the real possibility of triggering droughts in Asia and Africa. In short, geoengineering would give us (or some of us) the power to exile huge swaths of humanity to sacrifice zones with a virtual flip of the switch."


The other rather dangerous assumption is that arrogant Californians are the only ones who will try to do this.

The problem is Geoengineering is not a zero sum game - if India decided to try and engineer the next ice age for example, to get access to the shallower parts of the Indian Ocean.


This is exactly one of the major problems. What happens if a free for all is triggered? Do we get carrier group diplomacy standoffs in various regions to stop nations doing their own bit of engineering? Does the UN step in? So what if it does? It's a nightmare scenario if this stuff takes off.


I’d like to politely point out that you are speaking to the geopolitical coordination challenges related to deployment, not the technology itself.

Those are real, important issues to be worked through, and to your point, and they are better served by a multi-stakeholder approach that values climate justice.

There is research and work needed both on policy and the technology aspects of this.


The process is supposed to be entirely reversible. So maybe not so awful awful


Supposed to be. And what's the plan B if it turns out it isn't?


Who cares? We are all going to die from climate change in 12 years anyway, right? But seriously, the experiment is highly localised for now


Climate is never localised, everything is highly interdependent. Volcano eruptions in Indonesia have caused mass famines in Europe, for instance.

> We are all going to die from climate change in 12 years anyway, right

We aren't there yet, that we know of.


Their entire profitability model is based on being able to control where those artificial clouds stay. Large volcano eruptions were always global events, this isn’t


Are you honestly holding up a profitability model by a failson as superior to climate models by actual climate scientists?


Actually, it's working with scientists that are open to supporting our efforts publically. We're speaking to several leading scientists at the moment supporting what we're trying to do, but they are afraid of the scorn they'll get from people like you and be excommunicated by their peers.


> they are afraid of the scorn they'll get from people like you and be excommunicated by their peers

Rightly so - this type of intentional pollution of our shared environment is simply not acceptable, even as a scientific study.

You can't run a controlled experiment by releasing gases in the upper atmosphere, so it's very hard to understand what scientific value there could be to this anyway.


Wow, how thoughtful. Thank you for making potentially life changing decisions for myself and everyone I know without asking us how we feel. You're such a thoughtful and caring guy. Keep up the good work.


I would say that most climate scientists, including myself, subscribe to the lesson of "The King, The Mice, and The Cheese" [0].

[0] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/446759.The_King_the_Mice...


Definitely picking up the cultish vibes. What's up with these Musky villain type characters thinking they are God's gift to the world?


Arrogance. Ignorance. The cult of the Genius Founder that, ahem ahem, Y Combinator among others have been pushing for decades.


The quantity of sulfur released in this stunt was not such that it would affect the climate. This was a pure stunt, with the hope to kindle interest for purchase of "cooling credits". The main question at this point is despite the similarity, we can't call it "greenwashing", and "whitewashing" is kind of already taken. Maybe "graywashing"?


Sulfur is yellow, why not go with that


They’re literally pissing in the pool we are all living in.

This is a crime against humanity and these people should be jailed accordingly.


As is driving any ICE vehicle. People are very selective with their outrage. They'll rage against this and then buy a pointlessly large SUV because they like the sound it makes, or something.

I have driven ICE cars of course and without guilt even. So, don't get me wrong here. Just pointing out that it's irrational to go fuming at one thing without doing it for the other thing. If you own or drive a car, you are a part of the problem. We all are.


There is an outrage against suvs as well.


At least with combustion engines we get something (the entire modern world) out of the deal and it essentially has majority support.

This is a “I’m unilaterally rolling the dice with our future” type of situation. People have a different response because it’s a different situation!


You should read up about how much of toxic chemicals get released into the atmosphere during new year celebrations.


I think you're missing the point a little. Which is that for this to 'work' in any meaningful sense, it has to be scaled up to a planetary level of significant dispersion. This will almost certainly have consequences which we can't model, because of the scale. What does it mean to block out the sun across the whole planet? Photosynthesis on which we all rely to survive, needs sunlight. Even small changes can have dramatic effects on plant growth etc. It's a crazy idea, dreamed up by scientists who read too much science fiction.


Surely some volcanoes have ejected a fair amount of sulfur into the environment? How was the local weather affected by them?


Global weather has been impacted to such extents (resulting in multiple massive famines) that there's even a term for that - volcanic winter.


Surely you jest; Only Man could affect global weather!


If I remember correctly, there was a mini-ice aga in medieval times because of an erruption that was significant enough.


The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo is often cited.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1991_eruption_of_Mount_Pinatub...


Ask the dinosaurs.


More like pissing in the ocean.


You forgot the "asking people to pay you for doing it" part.


The tragedy of the commons. Truly reprehensible.


Of course! "Yellowashing" strikes just the right chord!


Here's the link to the MIT Tech Review post that this seems to mainly be referencing: https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/12/24/1066041/a-startu...


Reading this article, it seems to me that the only evidence we have of a launch is one guy telling us he did it, and... neglected to do any sort of measurement / recording? The whole thing is suspiciously light on any sort of confirm-able details:

> He says they occurred in April somewhere in the state of Baja California, months before Make Sunsets was incorporated in October.

> But it’s not clear whether that happened, where the balloons ended up, or what impact the particles had, because there was no monitoring equipment on board the balloons. Iseman also acknowledges that they did not seek any approvals from government authorities or scientific agencies, in Mexico or elsewhere, before the first two launches.

And now this article is linked on the company's front page as a "feature": https://makesunsets.com/

Given the obvious incentives to lie or exaggerate here, until some actual evidence turns up, I'm going to assume this is just a guy lying to draw attention to his startup.


Notably it’s both substantially easier and less criminal to lie about it than to actually do it.


Correct, James Temple interviewed us directly, other publications are just regurgitating him.


Since you're here, care to reply to the article?

I'm curious how you are planning to validate that this works and doesn't have negative side-effects.

> That’s in part because it’s highly controversial. Little is known about the real-world effect of such deliberate interventions at large scales, but they could have dangerous side effects. The impacts could also be worse in some regions than others, which could provoke geopolitical conflicts.

[...]

> By Iseman’s own description, the first two balloon launches were very rudimentary. He says they occurred in April somewhere in the state of Baja California, months before Make Sunsets was incorporated in October. Iseman says he pumped a few grams of sulfur dioxide into weather balloons and added what he estimated would be the right amount of helium to carry them into the stratosphere.

> He expected they would burst under pressure at that altitude and release the particles. But it’s not clear whether that happened, where the balloons ended up, or what impact the particles had, because there was no monitoring equipment on board the balloons. Iseman also acknowledges that they did not seek any approvals from government authorities or scientific agencies, in Mexico or elsewhere, before the first two launches.


Here's the science and math: https://makesunsets.com/blogs/news/calculating-cooling

Efficacy and the benefit:harm ratio is still to be determined until we scale up our deployments, but here is a lecture by David Keith, the leading researcher in stratospheric aerosol injection. Towards Quantitative Comparison of the Risks and Benefits of Solar Geoengineering (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ8TZqfwzdU&t=2247s)

TL;DW: it's 100:1 at conservative estimates.


What you people fail to realise is you're playing with the world, not just your backyard. You have absolutely NO IDEA what the unintended consequences of a planetary scale exercise like this could be. And it could be catastrophic for a region half the world away. The trouble is, by the time you discover that dimming the sun may disrupt weather patterns in hugely damaging ways 10,000 kms away, it's going to be too late. But that's OK, right? Because you'll have made your money and turned to the next crazy idea?

The best read on this is from Naomi Klein in the New York Times from 2012. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/opinion/sunday/geoenginee...


Heh, I was on the fence here but you single-handedly convinced me that this startup is good and justified, and should continue. Naomi Klein is all but openly using climate to advance her unrelated political agenda. She and the likes of her are anti-nuclear for the same reason, and their predecessors in the movement might be some of the main culprits of climate change, by helping bog down nuclear for 50 years. Not to mention indirectly helping prop up dictators from MBS to Putin.

Saying she is the best argument against something is to me like saying ISIS and Breitbart released a join resolution against something. About as strong argument-from-authority for that-thing as one can make.


Heh, glad to help with your due diligence. Although I'm a little perturbed that I 'single handedly' caused you to change your mind. Maybe some additional, and more reliable, sources might be worth investigating to get a full picture of the issues?


Please, do the world, and yourself, a favor and do the benefit : harm analysis before you scale up...


Remarkable that this very obvious statement is getting downvoted.


Are you not even bothering to go to the same lengths as amateur YouTube space photographers and sending up a phone with the balloons? Talk about half assing it.


Did you include any compensation for the increase in water vapour due to the Ha'apai eruption?

There are far better ways to do this btw.


Experts


I wonder how much funding something like that would have gotten without the founder's connections to YC. Sounds really scalable, scientifically sound and easy to validate, not.


>I wonder how much funding something like that would have gotten without the founder's connections to YC.

Probably $0 if you didn't have his background. 100% he got funding because he went through YC twice and was the Director of HW, but we welcome competition. I'm sure a VC out there will fund a startup that can scrub SO2 in the stratosphere to negate our efforts.


Well, considering how much effort it took to get sulfur, and sulfur oxides, filtered out from industrial emissions to eliminate acid rain... I think you should re-evaluate your approach. Unless the goal is just VC money and sending homeopathic doses of sulfur in un-tracked balloons into the air. In which case, good luck, I guess...


> I'm sure a VC out there will fund a startup that can scrub SO2 in the stratosphere to negate our efforts.

Why wait young man. You guys should do it and run both outfits. You already give off serious SBF vibes, so go all the way, and congrats on being the first to float an environmental scam.

Btw, when do you think we will have the first "environmental terrorism" charges filed?

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/97/ADX_pris...


This doesn't seem like the stakes are the same as Airbnb or Uber, when people claimed they were "changing the world" by ignoring regulations.


The gig economy did not ignore regulations, it existed between them, until new regulations were made. Don't hate the player, hate the game.


Labor laws. Taxi medallions. Zoning laws. Hotel and taxi regulations. And I'm naming just a few that come to mind.

This is not a morality issue, or a matter of clever legal interpretation. Outside of the US the courts have spoken. In all these cases Uber and Airbnb either broke those laws, or their business model required knowingly enabling people to break these laws.

The fact that this is still up for debate in 2022 is indicative of the problems within modern democracy.


Depends on a country really. In Poland we had unlicensed driving of people that was legal before Uber came around. It’s just that nobody did a good decentralised app before Uber.

Taxis were licensed and regulated, but that gave you a benefit of using taxi stops, taxi lanes and grabbing people off the streets. Also, customers - in theory - could expect quality.


It did in plenty of cases.

It also created issues which required and still require lawmaker to adjust.


There's NO regulation about it.


This reminds me of introducing a specie into an environment to combat a pest...and then you end up with two problems.

If we really want to geoengineer this it has to be pulling to C02 out of the air, rather than hoping two different issues cancel out


Hey maybe we should make some laws against companies dumping gases into the atmosphere...


Is this company subject to environmental regulation regarding emission of 'pollutants' in the atmosphere?


atmosphere yes, but we're deploying in the stratosphere (20km up) and the only other entities up there are the military, and they will work around you because they don't want you to know they're there when speaking with the folks at Loon [1] who made some really cool balloons.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loon_LLC


Your response was kind of ambiguous. Are you trying to argue you're not subject to atmospheric pollution regulations because you are polluting the stratosphere (which is a part of the atmosphere) instead?


We swallowed the spider to catch the fly

It's fairly well established why we swallowed the fly

Perhaps we'll die?

I'd definitely like to see more research into this though!


“We joke slash not joke that this is partly a company and partly a cult,”

If you have something that's partly a company and partly a cult, it's mainly a cult.


interesting that ycombinatior is part of the investment group


Oh? Well that explains a LOT. That's why it's been repeatedly getting so much traction on Hacker News lately. Baseline commercialism is such a wonderful thing.


Bigger problem is the thousands of companies altering atmospheric chemistry with greenhouse gasses, not one tiny company trying to counteract them with sulfur.


>... experts in the field think such efforts are wildly premature, however, and could have the opposite effect from what Iseman expects.

>“The current state of science is not good enough … to either reject, or to accept, let alone implement solar geoengineering," Janos Pasztor, executive director of the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative, told MIT Technology Review.

No. You are wrong and Iseman is wrong.


> could have the opposite effect

What's the mechanism of the possible opposite effect?


It hurts feelings


Ironically quite funny


This startup wants to enable them to keep polluting with co2 as long as they pollute stratosphere with sulfur as well.

Also, even with those companies we have regulations that forced them to filter out most of the pollution and we’re implementing regulations that will shut them down altogether.


Exactly: You can dump chemicals into the air because you want to make a profit, but if you do it for social/environmental reasons suddenly you've "gone rogue"!?


What is it about virtue signaling that prevents people from seeing their own stupidity?

>“To go ahead with implementation at this stage is a very bad idea,” Pasztor


I think we need to move beyond the traditional model of how people think. Classical Liberalism and Economics both hold people out as rational, reasonably self interested, self controlled etc. But the truth is that there are a whole bunch of processes in human brains that do not follow this model. Not just raw emotions. But things like seeking to belong or exclude others. Virtue Signalling is another example of this. Behavioural economics is starting to try and quantify some of this. Hopefully in a generation or two we will have learned (both individually and socially) to deal with these things a bit better...


> What is it about virtue signaling that prevents people from seeing their own stupidity?

Dunning Kruger, with a pinch of religious zealotry, to taste.


Turtles all the way down. The social/environmental cover is a cash grab through bureaucratic means. He's gone rogue in that he isn't planning the climate via a supranational bureau of experts.

>The company says it has raised $750,000 in funding from Boost VC and Pioneer Fund, among others, and that its early investors have also been purchasing cooling credits.


According to their website they emitted 20g of sulfur in the atmosphere. Probably not going to cause the ice age tomorrow.


So, a PR stunt then?


Some call it a minimal viable product :)

I think the outrage might be a part of the plan, yes.


No, "publicity stunt" sounds more accurate.


Cooling credits will sell well, and a ban will not happen after NSF poured trillions in similar research, that is the reality.


I find the alarmism in articles like this hilarious.

We all here own cars spitting CO2 into the atmosphere like no tomorrow, directly affecting the climate in serious ways.

Someone picks a gas to release to try and reverse this, and everyone panics and wants regulations, fines and jailtime? LOL.


Cars? One coal power plant is emitting million times as much (as 1 car).


In Australia a 500 megawatt black coal power plant emits the C02 amount of just under 700K average family cars whereas a brown coal power plant emits a little over 900K av. family cars.

( Not SUVs | 'trucks' etc )

Mind you, a 500 MW plant can service ~350K multi car homes; so the C02 output of that plant is within the ballpark (ie. less than a x10 factor) of the C02 output from the cars in the homes serviced by the plant.

ie. They're each as much of an issue as the other and change would be good here.


In Australia? 500 MW? You just picked smallest, right?

These are single entities blowing out crazy amounts of CO2. In my eyes, we should start replacing and shutting them down asap.


I'm in Australia and have those figures handy.

I picked a size that delivers approx the order of 1 million passenger cars worth of C02.

I also wanted to contrast black V. brown coal and to offer a comparison to a large number of cars (allowing people to think of the emissions coming from a city of a few million homes and vehicles (sans industry, which is another facet again)).

If you'd like to generate a table for other sizes then by all means go ahead.

FWiW South Australia (the entire state) recently spent an entire contiguos week using only renewable energy (and exporting via grid to other states an excess), and Western Australia has a significant percentage of renewable energy production (total production higher than SA) as a fully independent grid | state, but still some need for base load production).

Other Aus. states have larger populations and demands and still have a way to go.


I have this data handy, too. Wikipedia[1] lists only 3 of 19 coal fired power plants below 500 MW, so that’s not representative. My point was that these entities blow out the same amount of CO2 as millions of cars.

Residential electricity use in Australia is below 1/3[2].

I’m not sure if residents and their cars are the first to blame.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_coal-fired_power_stati... [2]https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Electricity-consumption-...



Spreading sulfur in the atmosphere does nothing against CO2, the goal, even stated by make sunsets themselves, is to reflect sunlight.


The critics don't exactly provide a persuasive case - neither here, nor in the previous open letter on the topic at https://climateandcapitalism.com/2022/01/17/climate-scientis.... Indeed they argue their case so badly that they actually make me strongly support experiments in solar geoengineering where previously I would've been unsure.

They do a terrible job of arguing against this tech on the basis of risk. They suggest that it could be counterproductive, but the ONLY mechanism they even suggest for how this could be the case is that geoengineering could reduce the incentive to tackle climate change in other ways, such as by reducing CO2 emissions. But if geoengineering works and has no problematic side effects, then... so what? This is pure status quo bias; the argument would be just as valid (or rather, just as absurd) if we flipped it and said that all attempts to reduce carbon emissions are dangerous and immoral because they reduce the incentive for solar geoengineering. This mindset - where attempting to develop any new safeguard against a danger is presumed to be unethical on the basis that it could reduce the incentive to use other safeguards - is not how we think about any other kind of risk and I see no reason at all why climate change risks should be a special case.

And it gets even more aggravating when they argue against doing even small-scale experiments with this tech on the basis that "The current state of science is not good enough". Again, unless you are articulating some kind of plausible downside to the experiment, this is a fully general argument against all science. It makes no sense to argue against research into a technology on the basis that we don't yet know whether the technology will work - that's what the research is for!

I have only a layman's understanding of climate science, and my first instinct is to be scared of attempts at global-scale climate engineering going catastrophically wrong and destroying the world, but if all the world's climate scientists can't articulate anything that I would understand as a risk and instead seem to be terrified by the prospect that the tech will solve climate change so effectively and harmlessly that it makes their ideologically preferred set of social changes unnecessary, then that sounds fantastically reassuring and I wish everyone working on this tech the best of luck.


This had fallen off HN front page already, before most of US woke up.

It's technically interesting, and potentially of existential importance to humanity (whether as savior, or as reckless ecoterrorism/genocide). It's also linked to YC.


[flagged]


I used to study Persian and due to the nature of my degree I met a bunch of people working in the military during the war in Afghanistan. If there's a war, there's always a queue of "entrepreneurs" coming from the invading country trying to push whatever snake oil they have under the disguise of help. Some of them believed that the solutions they had would work, sometimes because of their ignorance, then because hypocrisy stings less if you mix it with myopia.

I don't think that the people running this startup are in any way different. You might wanna dress it up as being brave enough to break the rules, but ultimately it's just hubris, a sense of entitlement and greed.


Lifetip: as soon as you boil down a legitimate issue to “race I don’t like doing thing I don’t like”, no one takes you seriously


Apologies, I'll formalise for you. The issue is that a person is doing something the entire scientific community says is a bad idea, and I belive the race and gender of the CEO lead to what I think is a incorrect sense of entitlement to use the world as a test-lab.


Ok, that is just as racist as saying black men commit the majority of violent crimes because of their race and gender


They so desperately want people to like them but can't figure out why no one ever does.


Would you support this if it was an Afro American?

Somebody has to do something about climate change. Our governments aren’t doing shit, if you got a better idea please go ahead.


A MUCH better idea - which will actually change the situation rather than just mask it like this one - is to work towards significantly reducing our emissions. A second idea is to try and reduce our unconstrained consumption. A third idea is to ramp up naturally regenerative practices which mitigate the worst of the current problems. There's no shortage of ideas, many of which are being done right now.


Unless you have a good way to convince China to go in on reducing their greenhouse gasses, those solutions are non-starters.


Flailing wildly with dangerous ideas is much much more likely to hurt than it is to help.


Only if we do it on a truely massive scale, and Global warming is known to be dangerous. This might be.

The difference should be obvious.


If we don't do it on a massive scale, it won't help with global warming.

Also, the risks of global warming are somewhat understood. The risks of this are not - it could help, or it could be much worse than even global warming.

Like in medicine, the principle has to be First, do no harm. The current approach seems to be akin to coming up with a new substance that you think cures diabetes based only on molecular chemistry, and sneaking it into a diabetic's food - "diabetes is known to be dangerous. This substance might be".


When you test new medicine you do that in small scale trials, then you find out if it is effective and then scale it up.

How would you suggest this approach is tested without testing it on a small scale?


Releasing stuff into the atmosphere is not small-scale testing. Medicine is also tested in animal models before being tested in humans - so I would expect this to be tested in a lab first; and then I would expect people to first design a new kind of experiment that would allow us to study the effects of this type of climate modification before actually deploying it into the atmosphere. I don't think we even have the experimental framework in place, so deploying the actual pollutants first is just crazy.

Even if they were really going for some deployment of small amounts of gas as an experiment, I would expect them to actually send some kind of instruments along with the gas as well.


@andyjsong Just bought $100 worth of... well, basically support. The final "buy" is still processing - you guys have high load, or it's just a random glitch?

edit: still hasn't taken my money. You may want to use another payment processor. For reference, my card is mastercard/revolut.


He should have the freedom to try, but if this ends up damaging the atmosphere in any measurable way, both him his company should be on the hook.

Unfortunately what I think will happen is this startup will release a ton of pollutants into the air, and nobody will be held responsible.


The fuck? No he shouldnt. Not everything can be solved with fines and jail time. Imagine everything this does manages to push the earth into a 100 year ice age, and it is irreversible on any other time scale. How much do you think that anything this company could do to repair it would be worth?


> Imagine everything this does manages to push the earth into a 100 year ice age

Looks like the plot of Snowpiercer, minus the perpetually moving train part.


I’m sure some startup is working on the train part already


Wilfred Industries was the first thing that came to mind for me. Seems unduly irresponsible to quench the heat entirely without first starting in the train, jeesh.


>> The fuck? No he shouldnt. Not everything can be solved with fines and jail time.

On the contrary, companies and individuals should absolutely be responsible for the consequences of their actions.


They should, but I think parent means that companies should also be stopped from doing things before they damage the environment for generations... because all the fines in the world cannot fix that anymore.


Maybe it's less about the fixing part, and more about the redistribution of funds into the reelection coffers?


If you're not willing to accept risk in a business action, including legal risk, you should not do that action.

Culpability for damaging the environment should rest on the person who caused the damage.

This is basic stuff.


By this logic, a company should be free to launch a nuclear missile at Russia from US soil, as long as they pinky promise to accept legal liability for what follows, right?

When the potential damages of an action far outweigh what it is even conceivably possible that the entity doing the action could ever hope to repay, the standards for preventing that action change.


Not sure what your hypothetical proves other than that we agree that launching nukes is bad. :P

The company is still at fault and should still be legally punished within the local legal system. The difference is that the government has now got to accept liability on the international stage, since the company is incorporated in that country. The liability has "expanded", not changed from one entity to another.


> He should have the freedom to try

No, he absolutely should not. This is not some stupid B2C nonsense where if you "move fast and break things" you can always redeploy. If it turns out that these people are not as smart as they think they are, and that's my guess, do they have a better backup plan than saying "whoops" and walking away? I doubt it.

Hopefully, as others have pointed out, these people are not really trying to do what they say they're doing and it's just a publicity stunt to sell a variation on the old carbon offset scam.


  > damaging the atmosphere in any measurable way, both him his company should be on the hook.
How about holding the hydrocarbon industry "on the hook" as well?


Are Exxon, Mobil, and others responsible for my car’s emissions because they extracted and refined the fuel? Or perhaps it’s Honda because they built it?

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s actually me who is responsible because I’m the one who bought it and decided to drive it.


Exxon and Mobil are part of the industry - note that I said industry and did not specify any particular level of participation.

Is Philip-Morris responsible for lung cancer, just because they purchased and refined the tobacco and sold it to consumers? It's the consumers who bought it and decided to smoke it.


Anyone who picked up smoking after around the early 1960s (when it was abundantly clear that smoking causes lung cancer)? Lung cancer they got from tobacco is on them, IMO.


Is it government investors and subsidies that prop up failing businesses? Nope, it's vooters.


Personally not a fan of climate doom. I am amused by this biz model.

>“They’re violating the rights of communities to dictate their own future,” she says.

As if the current model of supranational technocrats dictating acceptable levels of energy consumption doesn't usurp "communities" or the individual's right to dictate their own future.

The enterprise is interesting because of the questions it raises. Yes, they want carbon credits and carbon trading because climate doom, but not this.

>“What they’re claiming to actually accomplish with such a credit is the entirety of what’s uncertain right now about geoengineering,”

Contrast this appeal to uncertainty to the certainty of the climate doomer's models. Contrast this appeal to uncertainty to the certainty that supranational institutions know what is best for the climate or can identify what the ideal climate would be.




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