Climate change it’s a real problem. Human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are the main driver of an unprecedented increase in global average temperatures at a rate never before seen in Earth’s geological record. The problem is so bad that any efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions may be too little, too late. And so, a team based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has proposed a radical new solution: bubbles… in space.

That’s right, space bubbles. The opinion is based on two areas of concern. One is to try to reduce or even eliminate greenhouse gas emissions going into the future, the damage we have already done from over a century of advanced industrialization has already set the course of Earth’s climate trajectory in a bad direction.

It could be so bad that even if we were to completely stop all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, we would have to live with the severe impacts of climate change for decades and even centuries to come, including continued increases in sea ​​level, more extreme weather events. , and disruption in food producing regions.

Another way to tackle the problem is to sequester or remove carbon or somehow limit the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface, for example, by releasing aerosols into the atmosphere. The team at MIT argues that this is generally a bad idea because our climate system is so complex and dynamic that introducing artificial factors into the atmosphere cannot be reversed.

So that’s why they’re thinking space. The idea is to develop an array of thin bubble-like membranes. Those membranes will reflect or absorb some of the sunlight that reaches Earth, literally blocking it. The team argues that if the amount of sunlight reaching Earth is reduced by just 1.5 percent, we could completely eliminate the effects of all our greenhouse gas production.

Personally, I am quite skeptical of this idea. First, the team must articulate exactly what these bubbles will be made of and how they will be delivered to their target location, which is near the first LaGrange point of the Earth-Sun system. They will have to maintain the raft’s stability by balancing the gravitational forces of the Earth, the Sun, and possibly other planets as well. They will also have to deal with radiation pressure from the Sun itself, not to mention the constant shower of solar wind and micrometeoroids.

To trap 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 placed in space. So there’s just a little engineering challenge to make this thing work.

And while the MIT researchers claim that this space-based approach is fully reversible, it is only in a certain sense. Yes, if we decide the raft is a bad idea or isn’t doing what we hoped it would, we can just let it float free or dismantle it. But Earth’s climate is a complex system with many intricate feedback loops embedded in it that we do not fully understand.

What would be the total effects of blocking the Sun’s light by one and a half percent over years, decades, and centuries? What effect would it have on the biosphere or the level of cloud cover or ocean evaporation, or a thousand other considerations? Do we really believe we have the technical and intellectual capacity to do this right?

Finally, developing a solution that reduces the amount of sunlight hitting Earth does nothing to address the underlying issue, which is that we are causing serious damage to Earth’s climate and biosphere. If we’ve covered – pun intended – to do what we want, then why should we stop polluting or emitting greenhouse gases if we can just add more bubbles to the raft? We need to address these underlying problems, not just write them off.

The team admits there is much more work to do, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, after years of work, the realities of the complexity of this proposed solution burst their bubble.

This article was originally published on The universe today from Paul M. Sutter. Read the original article here.

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