We’re bringing you a special crossover episode this week from Catalyst’s sister podcast, The Carbon Copy. It’s about a rogue startup that was trying to do something we’ve talked about on this show: solar geoengineering. 

Last year, Time staff writer Alejandro de la Garza found himself on the floor of a hotel room in Nevada with two guys trying to cook sulfur dioxide out of a tin can. 

Luke Iseman and Andrew Song are the co-founders of Make Sunsets, a startup claiming to be implementing solar geoengineering by launching weather balloons filled with SO2 into the stratosphere.

Their first experimental launch in the Mexican state of Baja California resulted in a swift regulatory response from the Mexican government. But when they ran another test launch a few weeks ago just outside of Reno, Nevada, Luke invited Alejandro to join them. 

This week, we speak with Alejandro about his Time profile of the controversial startup. Plus, we talk with geoengineering experts Holly Buck and Kevin Surprise.

“Any single person you talk to in solar geoengineering research, whether they’re bullish or against it, they all think that what Make Sunsets is doing is a bad idea,” explains Alejandro.

Make Sunsets represents a turning point for the field of geoengineering, with rogue actors pushing the field from academic debate into the real world. Is the company’s recent balloon launch an act of performance art — or an open door to an uncontrolled climate experiment?

Recommended Resources:

  • Time: Exclusive: Inside a Controversial Startup’s Risky Attempt to Control Our Climate
  • The Guardian: Solar geoengineering could be ‘remarkably inexpensive’ – report
  • MIT Technology Review: This technology could alter the entire planet. These groups want every nation to have a say.
  • US Geological Survey: The Atmospheric Impact of the 1991 Mount Pinatubo Eruption
  • Catalyst: Solar geoengineering: Is it worth the risk?

Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

Support for Catalyst comes from Climate Positive, a podcast by HASI, that features candid conversations with the leaders, innovators, and changemakers who are at the forefront of the transition to a sustainable economy. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Catalyst is supported by Scale Microgrids, the distributed energy company dedicated to transforming the way modern energy infrastructure is designed, constructed, and financed. Distributed generation can be complex. Scale makes it easy. Learn more: scalemicrogrids.com.