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A Sunshade In Space To Combat Global Warming

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the thinking-big dept.

496

ultracool writes, "While the only permanent solution for human-driven global warming is developing renewable energy, a temporary hack to counteract possible abrupt climate change is to build a giant sunshade in space. The sunshade would be launched in small pieces by electromagnetic launchers, conventional chemical rockets being far too expensive. The sunshade could be developed and deployed in 25 years, would last about 50 years, and would reduce the amount of sunlight reaching Earth by 2% — enough to balance heating due to a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere." From the article: "The [trillions of] spacecraft would form a long, cylindrical cloud with a diameter about half that of Earth, and about 10 times longer... Sunlight passing through the 60,000-mile length of the cloud, pointing lengthwise between the Earth and the sun [at L-1], would be diverted away from our planet... The sunshade could be deployed by a total 20 electromagnetic launchers [collectively] launching a stack of [a million] fliers every 5 minutes for 10 years."

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496 comments

Didn't Mr Burns try this allready. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16732823)

I wonder what else this would stuff up? Less light for photosynthesis for example.

Sounds bad, but cool 1rst step to Dyson sphere (1)

spineboy (22918) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732865)

But if they're going to do it, then why not make it photovoltaic and get some energy out of it.

Blocking/decreasing photosynthesis would be bad, since it's one of only ways to decrease the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

We need to plant more trees to replace the devastation going on in South America, limit our CO2 production. America would be smart and try to help polish it's now tarnished reputation by taking a lead in this, and start by decreasing the amount of SUVs on the road.

Re:Sounds bad, but cool 1rst step to Dyson sphere (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733045)

yah.. It's like making a complex solution to a simple problem.

I don't know where L1 is but I doubt that thing would last a few years without being torn apart by small rocks and space debris.

Or.. (1, Insightful)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732829)

We could just cut down on our insane energy usage/wastage.
But hey, that would involve personal effort and we can't have that, can we.

Re:Or.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16732877)

Get Prokhor Zacharov [wikibooks.org] on the phone immediately!

Re:Or.. (1)

Ksempac (934247) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732897)

Actually i wonder what will be the hardest : Getting people in developed nations to cut down their energy usage or Getting nations to find a common ground and pay for the sunshade ?
When you see how much time it took them to build the ISS, you know this kind of project has absolutely no chance of happening (and you wonder why some people waste time thinking about this kind of stuff).

Re:Or.. (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732965)

When you see how much time it took them to build the ISS, you know this kind of project has absolutely no chance of happening (and you wonder why some people waste time thinking about this kind of stuff).

The ISS is a useless status symbol. This actually has a purpose, and the need is becoming more apparent every year. On the upside, an enormous project like this would have many spinoffs. Maybe the launchers could also send up units to convert solar energy to microwaves and beam them back.

Re:Or.. (1)

Shaper_pmp (825142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733215)

The ISS was originally a science/research project, and was designed to showcase international co-operation in a pro-active spirit of pushing back the boundaries and uniting man under a commmon aim. It was, therefore, clearly doomed from the very start.

A giant sunshade in space is expensive and difficult, but means we can go on polluting our atmosphere and spunking energy away, and don't have to do any of that boring, annoying growing up and taking responsibility for our actions.

I forsee a great future for the project, if it ever happens.

But seriously - we know what we have to do to combat global warming - who honestly thinks it's a great idea to start fucking ith the planet's ecosystem even more with what amounts to a high-tech, multiple-failure-mode band-aid, versus manning up, taking responsibility and sorting out the actual cause of the problem?

Re:Or.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733239)

USA is the source of 1/4 of the worlds pollution... If the US changed paths, they could probably make the other countries follow.

USA: 24%
EU: 14%
China: 13%

Total: 51%

source [vexen.co.uk]

Re:Or.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16732911)

I'd like to say I agree with you, but I suppose if that were true I'd turn off my computer.

-Keith N.

Re:Or.. (2, Insightful)

JoBlo69 (1023365) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732953)

The history of the planet has shown that there is a history of global temperature change. How is this any different? I can see how people could think that we are polluting the planet (we are dont get me wrong) but do you guys really think that 'man' is actually doing enough harm to this planet?? Im not saying that this article is nuts or something all im saying is that i think there should be more research into our contribution to raising the earths temperature before we start making it colder without knowing what will really happen. ps. this is my first slashdot post!

Re:Or.. (1)

Philotic (957984) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733057)

Welcome to slashdot, a seething cesspool of partisan bickering and junk science. Run firefox, preferably on a *nix system, bash Microsoft at every possible moment, praise Apple, and learn trendy catchphrases about Russia, Profit! and Lawyers. Mileage may vary.

Re:Or.. (2, Informative)

gomiam (587421) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733181)

As you state, there have been global temperature changes before. But never at this rate. It is statistically reasonable to think that this is not just a coincidence. It might even be that global temperature was changing on its own to begin with, but the high rate probably means we are speeding it up.

About doing "enough harm", I would be worried after seeing what be managed with just a few years of CFCs. Unfortunately, the "more research is needed" line would be good... if there wasn't so much research already done that points to us being the most probable cause of this high-speed heating.

I would have said "You must be new here", but you already wrote this was your first post. Welcome to Slashdot. May your contributions be productive.

Re:Or.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733241)

Sorry, can't just give you a pass on this. Global temperature has changed numerous times in the past at significatly faster rates. Whatever you are using as a source of information, it's incorrect.

Re:Or.. (1)

Jartan (219704) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732981)

Perhaps the irony of whining about energy usage/wastage while running a nice fat energy sucking CPU to post on slashdot hadn't occured to you eh?

Re:Or.. (2, Funny)

Anubis350 (772791) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733213)

te be fair, how do you know the GP wasnt posting using lynx on his toaster, watch, llama or something? I mean, it *is* slashdot...

Re:Or.. (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733303)

According to the meter on my plug, this home brew 486 PC is currently pulling about 35w. Sure, could be less but it could be a *lot* more.

Re:Or.. (1)

Cecil (37810) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733267)

In an immediate sense I agree with you. But in the long run, it seems rather silly to hobble ourselves. The problem with energy usage, and even wastage, is not because we're using energy, but because of where that energy comes from (hydrocarbons).

If our energy came entirely from solar energy, we could use almost any amount of energy we wish (within reason) with negligible detrimental effects.

Re:Or.. (1)

doom (14564) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733313)

If our energy came entirely from solar energy, we could use almost any amount of energy we wish (within reason) with negligible detrimental effects.

Ditto for nuclear energy, but then we'd all be going to hell.

Re:Or.. we should pollute some more (1)

eschelon (801261) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733307)

No kidding.

According to Dr. Crutzen, a Nobel laureate, we can counter the warming by creating a global haze by ejecting thousands and thousands of tons of SO2 into the stratosphere to produce a shaded earth that would counter the effects of global warming. Note the word - stratosphere, which is a bit higher up than where we are pumping SO2 currently :).

I got this from: http://arstechnica.com/journals/science.ars/2006/1 0/23/5718 [arstechnica.com]

As alternatives consider this:
* Drop a few nu-cu-lar bombs on rogue nations... so we get nucular winter
* tickle mt. st. Helens, Krakatoa, Tambora - ps: Tambora erupted 1815 and it is estimated it spewed out 150x more ash than miss Helen... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Tambora [wikipedia.org]

Re:Or.. (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733317)

Also interesting to note I got modded -1 over-rated for this opinion. One wonders if there is a mod who drives an SUV and sporting a twin GFX card monster PC muttering about how no commie liberal is going to stop him doing what he damn well pleases and FU with some negative mods.

The Simpsons already did it... (1)

jackhererUK (992339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732831)

Well they did.

Re:The Simpsons already did it... (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732889)

That wasn't the Simpsons - it was Futurama, and it went completely wrong!

They both did it (2, Informative)

gnoshi (314933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732971)

In the Simpsons, Mr. Burns built a giant sunshade to block the free source of energy that is the sun.
In Futurama, a giant mirror is launched into space to block the rays of the sun, and reduce global warming. A small meteor hits it, causing it to turn, focus the light on the surface of the Earth, and cut a swathe through the arena from which the scientists (and Nixon's head) look on.

Obligatory Mr.Burns quote.. (1)

Lonedar (897073) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733023)

"Since the beginning of time, man has yearned to destroy the sun."

Um, idea... (1)

DrRevotron (994894) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732835)

Maybe we could just... uh... plant some trees? I figure it'd save us a few trillion dollars in the long run. -_-

Damn, so close to frist psot.

Re:Um, idea... (1)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733015)

whilst I agree that long term solutions are the best, like planting more trees or reducing the amount of carbon we emit, the problem has got really bad - a lot worse than most people care to think. We just physically won't be able to get the US/India/China to agree to cut their emissions by an appropriate amount between now and 2050, this could keep us going whilst we're waiting to get an agreement internationally.

Re:Um, idea... (1)

neveragain4181 (800519) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733311)

>get the US/India/China to agree

Tags: TragicIrony

You see, if they can't agree about *that*, then why would we expect this plan to be agreed upon? How would we do it without them?

I know it's Monday and all (on my bit of the planet) but the sad truth is that democracy/govt is now a distant second to commerce, and there is no short-term profit in saving a planet. You would need to prove it will be destroyed before anyone will risk some action. The hulking masses of people can't comprehend a disaster that happens in slow-motion over a 50 year period - it makes lousy tv news...

Ringworld (1)

Biggerveggies (517226) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732837)

What about the super strength wires to hold it all together?! (Sorry, just finished the audiobook).

Re:Ringworld (2, Informative)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733069)

Screw the superstrength wires. The reason ringworld was held together was that it was symmetric and the solar wind and light pressure on it from all sides evenly balanced itself (which even had to be sorted out in the second [or third?] book of the series).

Any objects which are light enough to be put in orbit in such quantities will be blown to hell and gone off orbit by the light itself in 2-3 months. Nasa already did the experiment 20+ years back with an inflatable aluminium foil sphere and there was a similar experiment prepared by amateurs to be launched on a converted Russian ICBM lately (it failed at launch).

Frankly pestering your local politicscritters until they stop approving cretinous suburbia developments that are designed to make trees impossible is a much better idea. Just look at most recent suburbia in UK (Cambouorne, MK, etc) and US. The utility supply lines are run deliberately in a manner which prevents anyone from planting anything larger then a small cherry or apple. And this is intended that way, allowed and approved by the bastards sitting on city council planning committees.

For me, too? (0)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732839)

Excellent, will it come with my -1.75 prescription?
http://what-is-what.com/what_is/xhtml.html

At least... (1)

BinaryOpty (736955) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732845)

At least they're not using a giant space mirror. A project like that could possibly be retrofitted into a giant space laser and used to destroy all the robots on the planet only to be narrowly avoided by moving the planet away from the sun, legthening our year by a week. I know at the very least Al Gore would be against such an action.

of course he wood (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733283)

it would target him too! :)

How nice (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16732851)

A tinfoil hat for the earth.

Band aid fix? (2, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732857)

The trouble is with things like that are the unintended consequences that it'll undoubtedly have. The real fix is that we start living sustainably. The sunshade won't fix problems such as that which will be caused because we're using 4 barrels of oil for every new one discovered.

Re:Band aid fix? (1)

AstrumPreliator (708436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733001)

As I quite literally just posted in Snowball Earth Hypothesis thread only this time maybe in a bit more detail...

So if you support the idea of global warming and that humanity is by far the largest contributor to the phenomenon then you believe that through our own naive actions we have potentially created a dire set of consequences for humanity and many other species on Earth. Now you want to actively cool the Earth by changing it's albedo even though we are still ignorant to how the climate actually works? This is just as bad as those saying we're doing absolutely no harm to the planet only under the guise of "saving the planet". What happens if cooling the planet has unintended consequences just as industrialization has had such as plunging us into another ice age? This seems like an extremely hypocritical standpoint.

As I have sad in numerous other threads on the subject I think that actively combating global warming by changing the Earth's albedo is a very deplorable idea. I'd be much more comfortable with people carpooling or riding bikes to work, cutting down on those God awful SUVs, and moving to an alternative energy source which potentially has less of an impact on the environment.

As a side note I'd like to point out how I think it's ridiculous to place humanity above nature. We are apart of nature, anything we do is natural. If we kill ourselves by destroying the environment then it's no different than if a pack of wolves starve to death because they hunted their food to extinction. But that's just a little annoyance of mine =).

Re:Band aid fix? (1)

gnool (1005253) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733137)

People who want to fix global warming aren't really focusing on specifically "cooling the planet", their main focus is reversing the effect we've had on the planet. There's a subtle but important difference there. We don't want to stuff around more, we want to reverse the stuffing around we've done in the past, and help restore the favourable conditions that had evolved over the earth's bajillion years of evolving.
We are apart of nature, anything we do is natural. If we kill ourselves by destroying the environment then it's no different than if a pack of wolves starve to death because they hunted their food to extinction.
Pulling out of the ground millions of tons of carbon dioxide that have been there for millions of years is a very UNnatural thing to do, and the difference between humans and wolves is wolves don't affect the entire planet when they act unsustainably.

Re:Band aid fix? (1)

Runagate Rampant (602123) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733157)

I think it's ridiculous to place humanity above nature. We are apart of nature, anything we do is natural. If we kill ourselves by destroying the environment then it's no different than if a pack of wolves starve to death because they hunted their food to extinction.

I have heard this argument before but what does it even mean?

Do the starving wolves have arguments when the food sources start to dwindle where some of their leaders are funded by special interests to say: Nothing is wrong, it's all part of natural prey population fluctuations?

We can choose to behave like bacteria in a petrie dish. But even if we are that dumb, we have already broken from a "natural" response since the wolves/bacteria/etc at no stage are choosing to annihilate themselves.

Re:Band aid fix? (1)

gnool (1005253) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733085)

Thank you! Yes, the solution is SUSTAINABLE LIVING. Not "keep producing tons of C02 but pump it into the ocean", not "build nuclear powerplants that will produce toxic leftovers that will take millenia to decay", not "build a sunshade and put it in orbit over the earth" and definitely NOT "there's no problem, and even if there is I'm not going to do anything about it". SUSTAINABLE LIVING. That's means using less energy (eg building houses in such a way that they're comfortable all year around without heating or cooling, we have the know-how to do this right now), and using renewable energy sources. Renewable energy is our future, it has to be by definition! Coal supplies will be exhausted one day, as will oil, as will uranium. Solar and wind power are forever, it is inevitable that we will harvest these abundant sources of energy.

Biofuel (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733171)

``The real fix is that we start living sustainably.''

Yes. And biofuel is a good start. As I've said [slashdot.org] before [slashdot.org] , biofuel is carbon-neutral, cheap to produce, does not create a dependency on foreign countries, and we can produce enough of it to power the whole USA using just a fraction of all the desert land there. It probably also doesn't produce as much nuclear waste as nuclear fission does (but I don't have any data for that).

Re:Band aid fix? (1)

tsjaikdus (940791) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733225)

I agree. I wonder if the mechanisms involving the climate are understood well enough to fix it like this. I also find it difficult to graps why so few people profit hugely in money and power from selling oil, while the population in general will need to cough up thousands of billions of dollars to fix the problem.

Re:Band aid fix? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733255)

Actually that is not true. For the last few decades we have found oil at the same rate as we used it. I don't know if this is good or bad though.

not a good solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16732871)

If it were done on Venus or the moon and no alien lifeform comes to object then it's not a problem. But a shade in space affecting everyone on the planet is politically not a good idea. Seeking methods to find solutions down on earth is much better and longer lasting and can't be used to blackmail an entire planet. Ever consider turning the Sahara desert into a large Oasis by giving the plants desalinated water? This would surely cool the planet as it's taking the carbon back that came from desert places in the first place. This would be a multinational effort as well and not necessarily controlled by a single entity.

Wouldn't want to live near a launch site ... (1)

Marbleless (640965) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732875)

... as I'd imagine the packages would have to fire at supersonic speeds to reach orbit.

A sonic boom every 5 minutes for 10 years ... ugh!

Cause and effect (2, Interesting)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732887)

Various means of producing power causes pollution.
Pollution = Greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gases cause global warming.
Humankind puts up giant sunshade.
Earth gets less light.
Less light means solar power becomes obsolete.
People need to burn more fossil fuels to get more power.
Global warming picks up.
Humankind builds a bigger sunshade.

Okay, that is a big exaggerated, but my point is that we need to invest in solar power and stop using fossil fuels which are just so obsolete. Maybe we should work on fission.

I don't care if I get modded down for this. I want to bring up this subject to discuss intelligently when I have time to reply.

less photosythesis = lower oxygen (0)

Elminst (53259) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732893)

Umm hello?
Well the sun is making us hot so let's block it out. WTF?
That Sun also keeps plants alive, and guess what? Those plants provide our OXYGEN.
So did they figure out how much LESS oxygen will be produced when they block out 2% of the sunlight?
I'll bet it's significant. So we get less oxygen, and guess what. That means a higher percentage of greenhouse gases relative to "beneficial" ones.

Net result. Zero. We still fry.

Like a previous poster already said- http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=204931 &cid=16732829 [slashdot.org]
"We could just cut down on our insane energy usage/wastage.
But hey, that would involve personal effort and we can't have that, can we."

Re:less photosythesis = lower oxygen (3, Interesting)

foreverdisillusioned (763799) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733103)

Um...

1. I'm pretty sure that I read (on /., actually) that they did a study and the amount of sunlight that actually reaches the surface of the earth has decreased by a whopping 10% since 1950. That alone puts a pretty huge dent in your theory. This is probably due to the fact that...

2. Life forms are surprisingly adaptive. You act as if plants are completely helpless in the face of a minor 2% change. I'm not saying there wouldn't be some long-term consequences (more to do with specific species thriving/suffering as opposed to planet-wide climate change) , but a permanent, perfectly linear/proportional drop in oxygen output is unrealistic.

3. Sunlight is only the energy source--plenty of other factors are involved in oxygen production.

4. I'm not at all sure that the greenhouse effect depends on gas proportions. You imply that the overall level of greenhouse gases could stay the same but if the relative amounts of other gases dropped, we would warm up. That's entirely possible, but that's not how I assumed it worked. Mars is pretty cold, and its thin atmosphere is composed (IIRC) mostly of CO2, so that seems to be another dent in your theory. Venus, on the other hand, has an extremely thick atmosphere of C02 and it's hotter than Mercury. From this, I would hazard a guess that raw quantities of greenhouse gasses are more important than percentages.

5. Even if greenhouse gases did have a proportional effect, the missing oxygen might very well be replaced by other inert gases. Plants aren't simple oxygen machines; they give and take in ways that I simply cannot recall (nor be bothered to Google) at 5:30 AM.

Oh, and personal responsibility doesn't work. Sorry. Wish it did... but it doesn't, so let's not completely neglect the worst-case-scenario plans, eh?

Saving the Earth on a Budget (1)

Fraser (16937) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732895)

"conventional chemical rockets being far too expensive"

Hilarious that cost should be an issue when it comes to saving the world.

F

Re:Saving the Earth on a Budget (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733011)

"conventional chemical rockets being far too expensive" Hilarious that cost should be an issue when it comes to saving the world.

According to TFA:

The total mass of all the fliers making up the space sunshade structure would be 20 million tons. At $10,000 a pound, conventional chemical rocket launch is prohibitively expensive. Angel proposes using a cheaper way developed by Sandia National Laboratories for electromagnetic space launchers, which could bring cost down to as little as $20 a pound.
Even if you're saving the world, a cost factor of 500 is significant, if only because if you did try to do it with chemical rockets you'd spend more than the world GDP, i.e., it's impossible; and create a gigantic pollution problem.

Re:Saving the Earth on a Budget (1)

demallien2 (991621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733145)

I think he was talking about the cost in terms of the carbon budget - ie we would generate more pollution, and hence warming, by launching all those rockets than we would decrease the warming through the effects of the heat shield. But if you power the sucker by hydroelectric, or some other "clean" energy source, disaster could be averted.

Nice idea. It's good to know that we have options if needs be....

Re:Saving the Earth on a Budget (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733319)

Cost is a measure of resources. There aren't unlimited resources (people to do the work, raw materials etc.), and hence cost is always an issue.

And what about.... (1)

15Bit (940730) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732903)

....the pollution we'll cause getting all those cute little spacecraft up there? Electromagnetism may be better than rockets, but you can't get away from the fundamental truth that it costs a lot of energy to put stuff into orbit. Or maybe it'll solar-powered...

I can't imagine the astronomers will be too pleased with this either.

Clarke's idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16732913)

A similar shield is described in the book 'Sun Storm' by Arthur C Clark & Stephen Baxter. http://thebestreviews.com/review27301 [thebestreviews.com]

All they think of is the heat.. (1)

Feint (135854) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732935)

This will just kill off the planet. Great, it lowers the temperature, but the majority of life of the planet (read: algae, plants etc) requires sunlight to live and hasn't been that greatly affected by the temperature change (yet). The amount of light they get has not changed (yet) due to global warming so they keep producing oxygen. Reduce the sunlight by 2%, and the e

The Americans (and I can say this because I am one) need to get a wake up call and start thinking about the environment. I'm not suggesting everyone become as radical as the Green party or anything, but we should at a minimum try to align with the rest of the world. Instead of trying to think up bizarre (and expensive) ways of blocking the sun, why not just reduce emissions and then try to harness more solar power?

Oh yeah, that would be bad for large companies. Also doesn't require 200billion of government spending to said companies to implement either.

Feint
========================
Do the right thing for once...

Re:All they think of is the heat.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733067)

According to calculations performed on numerous supercomputers with numerous assumptions: We are already in an irreversible feedback cycle for global warming. Stopping thermal pollution and greenhouse gases isn't enough. We have to actually REVERSE these, just in order to prevent imminent demise.

Re:All they think of is the heat.. (1)

demallien2 (991621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733179)

Sadly, stopping emissions, even if we could go cold turkey and permanenly drop emissions by 50% tomorrow, won't be enough to stop a major temperature rise over the next 100 years or so, due to pollutants that are already in the atmosphere. Of course, with rising temperatures, we have more storms, floods and other natural disasters, which in turn drains global GDP, making investment in clean technologies ever more difficult.

This solution provides a neat circuit-breaker. It give us the possibility of avoiding the worst of the global warming that we have already set in motion. Quite frankly, I would love it for this type of project to be given the greenlight tomorrow. Operations should be able to start in about (plucks figure from the air) 10 years if my understanding of the technologies involved and their current state is correct. That would have the shield entirely in place in about 35 years, just when global warming is really going to be starting to make itself felt.

We have to do something, the status quo, and even conservation efforts are no longer going to be enough to save the day - bring on the super-engineering projects I say....

Your all missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16732955)

Their talking about putting millions upons millions of small objects into one of the lagrange points, isn't that likely to make other space travel just a little more difficult? Hell they already change the oribit of the ISS to avoid paint flecks and what knot.

bad idea, getting press because it's a bad idea, kinda like dumping fertiliser in the worlds oceans to create an algae blume to convert co2 into o2...

Re:Your all missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733105)

Isn't a bunch of small objects, or "particles", claimed to be part of the problem in the first case? You know, with the green-house effect and so on?

Plant billions of trees (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732957)

Might be just as difficult, but at least it is something people can understand.

Re:Plant billions of trees (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733297)

Yes, but unfortunately it wont work as the trees only consume CO2 at ground level, and usually not in the areas where all the excess CO2 is produced.

Re:Plant billions of trees (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733323)

You're right. What we need is flying trees.

Ironically (1)

binkzz (779594) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732979)

If we used that 2% of solar energy as a substitute for fossil fuels, we wouldn't need any fossil fuels anymore.

is it just me? Or... (1)

kbox (980541) | more than 7 years ago | (#16732991)

.. does anyone else think the only people we have working on a solution to global warming are 12 year olds who read far too much science fiction and people who smoke crack?

No, it's Angel, what do you expect (1)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733031)

Angel is a brilliant mirror designer, but given that's what he spends his time thinking about, how much credibility would you give his ideas on fixing global warming? He is probably about as qualified to make suggestions on the subject as Mrs. Guy Ritchie. Or me.

No, it's modern journalism (1)

njdj (458173) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733177)

If there are 2 proposed solutions to a problem - one boring and sensible (e.g. "let's stop wasting so much energy") and one that sounds as though it's the brainchild of a 12-year-old on crack - the media will emphasize the second one.

The goal of today's journalist isn't to inform; it's to attract attention and get a response. Because that's what pleases the advertisers, who are the customers who count.

I am freezing here! (1)

zitintheass (1005533) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733005)

They promised us warm winters like in California, GW is a lie and those sci-entologists are lying liars.

One flew over the coo coos nest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733021)

Get real! That's complete science fiction.

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733043)

If the sun were no more than a big space heater (no pun intended), then sure, maybe this would be useful - though as others have pointed out, it sounds like a mindbendingly stupid thing to do, when you consider the cost of it. But the Sun does more than just give us heat.

Maybe you've all heard of a little process known as photosynthesis? It's that pesky thing plants do using sunlight by which the carbon is fixed out of CO2 in order to release O2. Since we need to breathe oxygen to survive, its continued abundance is kinda important.

So, we reduce the amount of sunlight coming to Earth - we reduce the amount of energy flowing into our system - and end up with diminished growth on Earth, as well as a diminished ability to fix carbon and pull CO2 out of the air. Anyone else see the problem?

By reducing levels of sunlight, we raise the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, heating up the Earth even more.

Not a plan.

My dream... (1)

Terminal Saint (668751) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733051)

I'm the assistant manager of a state park during summers, so I spend at least eight hours a day outside. On sunny days I've often joked that I needed some sort of orbital shade to keep the glare out of my eyes and to keep me cool. Admittedly my idea of a giant sun glasses lens in orbit was a bit crude, but a man can dream right? Finally my dream can come true...

Operation Dark Storm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733061)

Well, at least by the time we develop robots with really good AI, and depends heavily on solar energy, we already have the tech to scorch the sky [wikipedia.org] we'll know how to get rid of 'em, or else we're all gonna be batteries.

OMG SUNSHIELDS !!! (1)

iXiXi (659985) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733071)

We are all doomed! Just watched a show about dodging asteroids. Now we are talking about sun shields. What is next? Armageddon 2, the vicious cycle.. coming soon to a theater near you! Alien invasion my arse! What self respecting alien race would not come down to this planet and look at us and say, "we really screwed up that one, $%^^&" I told you they couldn't function with only 2% !"

What is quality of life? Can someone define it for me please? I sure as hell can't seem to get a straight answer from anyone. Wait let me go start my F350 king cab and check country radio, maybe they know. Or, I will just ask Al Gore. He seems to know everything. I think I will leave W. alone, he has enough to worry about. Hey Joe America, Jane world ! Do you know what the secret to life is? What is happiness and should I feel guilty to feel it? Seriously, where are we as this human race to be so screwed up in such a short time. 100 years it took us to need sun shields. Maybe the ignorant college kids know, at least they have passion.
 
Now I know what the guy at the bus stop preaching from the camera manual and flinging doo doo at the passing cars is thinking. Screw it ! Now let's see if /. readers have any 'wise' comments about this one. Shouldn't you be working anyway, so you can consume shit and leave it on my doorstep? I know what you will say, " he is a ranting idiot", now use your +/-2% and convince me that you aren't some armchair jockey with all the answers. Maybe some college professor will open a book and quote something at me trying to be papa brain. God forbid the Christians start in on me with all that BS.

Re:OMG SUNSHIELDS !!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733273)

Yep... discovering crack was a pretty bad move.

Re:OMG SUNSHIELDS !!! (1)

static0verdrive (776495) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733295)

God obviously intended to heat us up a little (maybe so future generations will have less hair). It is His plan. Obviously, therefore, a massive Sun Shield fired in pieces every 5 minutes for 10 years is also God's design.

Movie Plot? (1)

purwin (853446) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733097)

Sounds like they saw Highlander 2, which has a similar idea, an artificial ozone layer. The movie was not very good as well.

Climate is changing constantly during the history (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733099)

It's not the first time in the Earth's history when climate is changing. In fact it's changing constantly.

look at this

http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm [scotese.com]

Another suggestion (1)

Inverted Intellect (950622) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733111)

I see a couple problems with this "sunshade idea".

1. wouldn't they act like solar sails and eventually plummet towards the earth (or away from earth orbibt, or into an unuseful position, etc.)?

    Maybe some sort of transparent material would be better; scattering rather than reflecting/absorbing light. Or would that also act as a solar sail?

2. Electromagnetic space launches aren't quite there yet. It's just how it is. Maybe later on.

    Far as I know, this idea isn't even remotely possible until they get that particular tech to a usable/fundable level. No work, no funds. No funds, no go.

3. Expensive.

    Even with a fantastically efficient launch method (as electromagnetic/laser launching seems to promise), 2% of all the light headed towards earth means a lot, a very large lot, of mass to put into orbit. I'm not sure I can impress this on everybody. It's a FANTASTICALLY large amount.

4. Alternatives.

    There's stuff we can do RIGHT AT THIS VERY MOMENT. It's very hard to identify just what one can do to reduce emissions, and many end up doing the exact opposite just in trying. But here's a few tips: Be efficient. Find ways around obsolescense. If at all possible, don't waste more than you need. This should all be terribly obvious by now, even though it isn't to many.

Re:Another suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733203)

4. Alternatives.

Send more spy salitlles up to block the sun.


Plus it will help fight against terorism in the homeland.

Next step - charge people for the sunlight. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733123)

Seems similar to the Bolivian(?) water crisis of a few years back - major industrial firm decides to modernize the infrastructure for water (which used to be affordable), and instead jacks up rates so almost noone could afford it.


I can see the guys running the sun shield doing the same - charge countries for letting light shine on them in the daytime.

Where's the Simpsons Joke? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733129)

Where is it? Someone has to quote it. I would have thought it was an inevitible thing. Come on. It's a Mr Burns one too, everyone loves Mr Burns. Where is it?!

a better idea... (1)

schattenteufel (926231) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733135)

I have a better idea; let the Earth's ecosystem fail, bring on the global climate change!! I'm picturing a post apocalyptic world, with no more free rides for the weak techno-dependent. Kill off 75% of the world's population, the last 25% will be the strongest & most deserving to survive, though they'll live in a miserable, forsaken world where every day is a struggle to survive!

Re:a better idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733209)

Hollywood called, they want their good old plot outline back (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079501/).

Re:a better idea... (1)

schattenteufel (926231) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733261)

yeah, that was my point. thank you for explaining my joke...

Re: Odd (1)

Inverted Intellect (950622) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733217)

"the last 25% will be the strongest & most deserving to survive, though they'll live in a miserable, forsaken world where every day is a struggle to survive!" You make that sound like a bad idea. I mean, who wouldn't want to be Mad Max? ... Oh, ok, so even Mad Max himself wouldn't want to be Mad Max, but still... Post-Apocalyptica rules!

Not enough thought in the idea (1)

stryyker (573921) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733161)

It's all well and dandy to reduce the light coming to earth so the greenhouse gases don't trap as much heat. Problem is the last 50 years the amount of light reaching earth surface has been reducing following research by Israeli, Australian and other scientists that were also doing research on rainfall and evaporation rates. They found air pollution was a major factor as it made more water droplets form which absorbed some light. I have no idea how it affected the greenhouse effect though. If only the main greenhouse gas layers were lower than many of the water drops formed because of the air pollution then we could just pollute the air with more nitrogen based compounds to reduce the greenhouse gas effect. The old beat up car fuming badly could be prolonging life as we know it :)

Really? (1)

el_womble (779715) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733169)

This is clearly a dumb idea, but its wrapped up in a way that will make sense to dumb people in power: Can't stand the heat? Get in to the shade!

But along similar lines I was thinking about using hydrogen for fuel. There is a serious by product of creating hydrogen from oceans: oxygen. Oxygen is poisonous in high concentrations, but perhaps more worryingly its also a catalyst for fire. Isn't there a real chance that creating that much oxygen and pumping it into the atmosphere is going to take us from the relatively safe 2.5% up to the scary-fireball-of-death 3% oxygen levels?

I know at the moment is seems like wacko talk, but if they had said 80 years ago that using coal and oil would make the planet warmer they'd have been laughed off Ye Olde SolidusPeriod. I understand this is a closed system (at least in theory) and most of the hydrogen that is release will be oxidized, but what about the little bit that isn't? How big a scale of industry would it take before we had a serious problem with O2, H2 and H20 levels in the atmosphere?

Re:Really? (1)

tsjaikdus (940791) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733285)

H2 gets burned with O2, that's what you want it to do. So there's no increase in O2. Analogously there can not be any increase in H2O.

futurama (1)

Bizzeh (851225) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733195)

i remember seeing something like this on futurama, and i remember it not going to well for them.

This is dumb (1)

OlivierB (709839) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733197)

A launch every 5 minutes for how 25 years? Do you kow how much energy that will use?
Where are they going to get it from? Oil so it creates more emmissions? Sun maybe, nope sorry we'll be blocking that too!

The trillions this would potentially cost would be better served as investments in renewable energies.
How about some long term solutions rather than band-aids?

Tried but vetoed (1)

Ekhymosis (949557) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733199)

I tried this once, but I got vetoed by the Gaians, Spartans and Morganites. =(

Artificial photosynthesis (1)

Tracy Reed (3563) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733205)

Carbon Dioxide + Water + Light energy Glucose + Oxygen + Water

Isn't there a way we can do this on a massive scale and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? And I don't mean plant forests because that isn't likely to happen due to the space they require. Synthesize our own chlorophyll and do it much more efficiently than plants can? Or perhaps skip chlorophyll altogether and go with some other means of using light (or even use nuclear power if some other energy source would be more efficient) to implement the carbon reduction reaction in an even simpler way than chlorophyll does it which can allow us to sequester the carbon.

Or perhaps it would be simpler to find some way to store carbon dioxide. But because it is a gas that sounds troublesome.

Looks like the guys at MIT and various people in industry are looking into the problem: http://sequestration.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]

Ultimately humanity is going to have to take active control over the climate of our planet. Nothing can be left to nature anymore because as part of nature we would destroy ourselves.

Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733223)

Now we've found a way to destroy our planet on a global scale!

so now we can continue to thin, pollute and otherwise destroy the atmosphere, all the while causing climate and weather changes on a global scale, blocking out sunlight that supports the plant life that generates our oxygen, and tons of other fun consiquences.

just imagine the military uses for a giant space based device for blocking sunlight!
you could modify weather patterns to flood or otherwise destroy problematic nations by generating stationary supercell storms over them.
you could starve their crops of sunlight, or rain depending on it's placement.
simultainously you could put america at an economic advantage on all levels of production, from generateing rain in previously dry regions, take energy away from storms that could be otherwise devistating (example being cooling off the gulf to destroy a hurricane) you could even increase fish populations in us watters by setting them to the optimal temperture year round.
Make a section refelective(which it already is) and angel it towards canada and alaska to essentialy terraform them into pristine growing or grazing land with just enough rain and warmer weather. then just send them a letter of acceptence of their surrender and expand our nation's size.
make the rest of the world dependent on us for food, for watter, for sunlight, for oxygen, for life, forever.
fuck everyone else

jk(atleast I hope not)

Excellent, but (1)

$pearhead (1021201) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733227)

have they discussed this with the sunblock manufacturers?

What think non American people ? (1)

Psycoach (945844) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733233)

They might think that this planet belongs to them also, and that their advice could to be requested...

optimists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16733247)

Morpheus: We don't know who struck first, us or them. But we do know it was us that scorched the sky.

Picture (2, Funny)

nmg196 (184961) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733275)

Looking at the picture in the article, it looks like they're planning to put 100 millions CDs in orbit to reflect the light.
If so, I think I have enough AOL CDs in my drawer for the mission to go ahead right now.

Sunstorm (1)

God Of Atheism (1003892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16733333)

This reminds me of the book Sunstorm by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, of course there they're sensible enough to only activate the shield during a very intensive solar storm. The shield is a nice idea, but as others have mentioned, it will kill vegetation that does need the light for photosynthesis. The same goes for the idea to combat the global warming by creating a small scale nuclear winter, which would be the cheap and easy version compared to the shield at L1. In this scenario, a few (10-100 ?) nuclear weapons, fission or fusion bombs as you choose, are used in some location which is not too populated and the resulting increase of dust particles in the atmosphere lowers the global temperature. Again, any vegetation dependent on photosynthesis will be negatively affected by this, so the amount of CO2 that vegetation takes from the air will be lowered. The advantage of this scenario over the shield scenario, apart from far lower costs and total lack of technical difficulties, is that one can instead choose to use the bombs in densely populated areas, thus lowering the overpopulation and human energy consumption, and as an added bonus this lowers the global nuclear weapons stockpile.
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