The following is a guest post by Ron Baiman.
I’m an economist active in climate research and policy areas. Make Sunsets has invited me to write a guest blog on: “How should cooling credits be priced over time so as to avoid extreme cooling that would ‘freeze the world’?”. I’m delighted to do this as I believe that what Make Sunsets is doing is a direct response to the most urgent climate challenge facing humanity in our times.
My first response to the question I’ve been asked is that we should all relax about this. Snowpiercer notwithstanding, there is no danger that what Make Sunsets is doing will freeze the world! Make Sunsets has been launching balloons that loft less than 10 grams of SO2 with each launch, and Luke’s careful calculations based on a range of estimates in the literature suggest that it would take roughly a terragram (a trillion grams) of SO2 in the stratosphere, requiring more than 100 billion Make Sunsets launches, to achieve approximately 0.217 degrees C of cooling over 2.1 years!
My second and more important response to this question is that for likely the next hundred years or longer, freezing the planet will be an irrelevant question. This is because, in the absence of direct climate cooling counter measures, like what Make Sunsets is attempting to do, recent modeling suggests that global temperatures will not decline for at least 50 years after net-zero (human generated and naturally caused) GHG emissions is achieved. And even more alarmingly, a recent draft paper by James Hansen (the climate scientist who warned the US Senate in 1988 that climate change was happening) and coauthors suggests that 7-10 degrees C may already be in the pipeline even if GHG levels were frozen at 2022 levels.
So, the relevant question is the opposite one.
How should cooling-credits be priced to directly cool the planet and keep it cool even after net- positive global emissions have ceased, while we work on the more fundamental challenge of reducing and drawing down GHGs to stabilize our climate and regenerate nature on our planet over the long term?
Answer: As low as possible so that as many as possible will be bought as soon as possible!
But no need for Luke and Andrew to starve. The credits should be priced so that Make Sunsets and other private and public direct climate cooling initiatives can thrive and quickly cool our planet!
Ron Baiman is an Associate Professor of Economics at Benedictine University in Lisle, IL, outside of Chicago. He is a founder and Steering Circle member of the Healthy Planet Action Coalition, and a founder of the Chicago Political Economy Group where preprints of his latest papers on climate change (published in the Review of Radical Political Economics) can be found.