We have heard a lot lately about balloons flying over our land. These are apparently intelligence gathering balloons from China and have made many of us a bit nervous. But there are all kinds of weather balloons as well and in reading this week about this form of air flight I discovered a story of balloons used as a proposed solution to climate change.

I think the one constant in societal nature is if a solution requires sacrifice look for another solution. I am not talking about personal sacrifice; that seems to be in complete contrast to societal attitudes. The sacrifices are evident with those who have served or are currently serving in military, and early responders.

Examples can be seen everywhere of parents sacrificing for their kids and of kids sacrificing for their aging parents. What I am talking about is, as a society, when we see that we are going down the wrong path we need to adjust. Logically we see that some real sacrifices must be made and, for a moment, society is ready to do just that. But then we take a side-glance at another possible solution we could try; maybe we don’t really have to change that much after all.

That was my first thought when I heard about a company called Make Sunsets, which recently launched balloons into the stratosphere over Baja, Mexico and California that released sulfur dioxide. That release would supposedly make the atmosphere more reflective and therefore lower the Earth’s temperature, perhaps slowing down or maybe even providing a solution to global warming. And so my mind started wandering in so many directions, from sci-fi films and books to almost every evildoer in cartoons. Then I landed on Starbuck – not the coffee place but Bill Starbuck from “The Rainmaker.” (If you haven’t seen this 1956 film – find time.)

Starbuck is someone who sees a desperate group of people in need of rain as a solution to their drought. He promises them he has a way to solve their problem, and yes he is charming, but the real reason they agree to pay for his services is because they desperately want to believe him. People who fear there is no other way and feel they have sacrificed so much already are eager for another answer.

Make Sunsets is not the only group that has discussed solar geoengineering but it has made a big step with the launch of its balloons. The process of solar geoengineering has been a concept for a very long time but is evolving from “what if” to “hey, we could do that.”

According to Geoengineering Monitor, the “technologies” are mostly hypothetical proposals advanced by various geoengineering advocates. Geoengineering technologies can be categorized by different approaches (solar radiation management, carbon dioxide removal, weather modification) or by where they seek to intervene in the planetary ecosystem (land, air, water).

Solar radiation management, like the balloons launched, proposes to spray large quantities of sulfur particles (like sulfur dioxide) into the stratosphere to act as a reflective barrier against incoming sunlight. Proposals range from shooting particles from artillery guns, using large hoses aimed toward the sky, emptying particles from the back of aircraft, and/or employing the balloon system like the one used over Baja.

This sounds akin to cloud seeding, which is a similar science, but instead of causing rain like Starbuck promised those who release balloons are trying to control temperature.

According to, geoengineering can be broken down into three techniques: solar radiation management – a technique that attempts to reflect sunlight into space (like the balloon launches); carbon dioxide removal – a proposal to suck carbon out of the atmosphere on a massive scale using a combination of biological and mechanical methods from seeding the ocean with iron pellets to creating plankton blooms to creating forests of mechanical “artificial trees;” and earth radiation management – a theory that suggests negative effects of climate change can be offset by allowing heat to escape into space; for example, by thinning cirrus clouds.

These ideas are nothing new to anyone who has watched/read science fiction, James Bond or Scooby Doo. My mind immediately goes to the “Paw Patrol: The Movie” from 2021. Because I am a grandma and my grandson is a Paw Patrol fanatic, I have seen this particular film at least 100 times. I even find myself watching it when he is not around; it is an excuse for my exhausted grandma brain to zone out.

In this film, Mayor Humdinger tries to make everything perfect in Adventure City, the metropolis, by controlling the weather with a floating cloud extractor allowing only the sun to shine. Of course it turns out badly, as it always does, because the cloud-sucking device had not been fully studied and was not meant to be used in this extreme way.

And so we come back to geoengineering. These methods do seem to come from the desperation that not enough is being done quickly enough and the realization that we can’t recycle or electric car our way out of the effects of climate change, so we have to do something. Maybe these methods are part of the solution but it seems there should be a lot more study done before we start releasing chemicals into the air – on purpose.

For the next few days the weather (that has not been yet modified by anything except old fashioned greenhouse gases) will include a freeze watch from last night to this morning. Later today the high will be near 59 degrees, lows in the 40s and winds from the northeast at about 10 mph. Friday through next Tuesday, the highs will be in the high 60s, lows in mid 40s. There is a slight chance of rain on Saturday night after 10 p.m. through Sunday.