Scientists say ‘space bubbles’ could protect Earth from the sun, but will it work? : Science Alert

Climate change is a real problem. Anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are the main driver behind the unprecedented rise in average global temperatures at rates unprecedented in Earth’s geological record.

The problem is so serious that any attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may be too little and too late. So an MIT team has come up with an entirely new solution: in space… bubbles.

That’s right, bubbles in space.

This idea is based on two areas of focus. One is that we can reduce or even eliminate greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible in the future, and the damage we have inflicted from more than a century of advanced industrialization has set the course of the Earth’s climate trajectory in a bad direction.

The situation could be so bad that even if we were to completely stop all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, we would still have to endure the severe impacts of climate change for decades and even centuries to come, including continued sea level rise, more extreme weather events, and Destruction of food producing areas.

Another way to solve this problem is to sequester or remove carbon, or to limit the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface in some way, such as by releasing aerosols into the atmosphere.

That’s generally a bad idea, the MIT team argues, because our climate system is so complex and dynamic that introducing human factors into the atmosphere itself is irreversible.

So that’s why they think about space. The idea is to develop a series of thin bubble-like membranes.

These films reflect or absorb some of the sunlight that reaches Earth, effectively blocking it. The team believes that if the amount of sunlight reaching Earth is reduced by only 1.5%, we can completely eliminate the effects of all greenhouse gas emissions.

I am personally skeptical of this idea. For one thing, the team hasn’t made it clear what these bubbles will be made of and how they’ll be sent to their target location close to the Earth-Sun system’s first Lagrangian point.

They need to keep the raft stable by balancing the gravitational pull of the Earth, the sun, and other planets. They also had to deal with radiation pressure from the sun itself, not to mention the constant rainfall from the solar wind and micrometeoroids.

frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard writing; encrypted media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture “allow fullscreen>

Blocking even one percent of the sun’s output would require a raft thousands of miles wide, which would make it the largest structure we’ve ever put into space. So just a little bit of engineering challenge to get this thing to work.

While the MIT researchers claim this space-based approach is fully reversible, that’s only in a sense. Yes, if we think the raft is a bad idea or doesn’t do what we want it to, we can let it float freely or disassemble it.
But Earth’s climate is a complex system with many complex feedback loops embedded within it that we don’t fully understand.
What is the total impact of blocking sunlight by 1.5% over years, decades and centuries? What effect will it have on the biosphere or clouds or ocean evaporation levels or thousands of other considerations? Do we really believe we have the technical and intellectual capacity to do this?
In the end, developing a solution that reduces the amount of sunlight hitting the planet won’t help solve the underlying problem, which is that we’re doing serious damage to the planet’s climate and biosphere.
If we have the cover—pun intended—to do what we want, why should we stop polluting or emitting greenhouse gases if we can add more bubbles to the raft?
We need to address these fundamental issues, not just on paper.
The team admits there’s still a lot of work to do, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, after years of work, the reality of the complexity of this proposed solution… pops their bubble.
This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original text.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.