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How Space Mirrors Could Help Combat Global Warming

by DrPrem Jagyasi
Space technology

With temperatures rising from all around the world, scientists are coming up with whatever they can to control global warming. In fact, some of them believe that it is impossible to control the ignorance of people, which at present seems to be the major cause behind climate change. Therefore, with ideas like that of space mirrors, scientists are trying to control to the atmosphere. Despite the cost, if they succeed with it, the results would surely have great implications for all of humanity. Here’s all you might want to know about them.

Space Mirrors

Space-MirrorsImage Source : indiaclimatedialogue.net

Science today can go up to any level to fight for various concerns affecting human in habitation  One of such concern is global warming. What scientists today are suggesting is that an array of highly reflective mirrors could be placed in Lagrange point L1, which is basically a gravitationally stable orbit around the Earth. When the mirrors will be placed in this orbit surrounding the Earth, they will behave as stationary objects and will tend to reflect the sun rays back into the space, helping Earth to cool down a bit.

The advantages

Scientists believe that this will help reduce Earth’s temperature by as much as 1 degree centigrade. Although this may look a little bizarre proposition but it’s true. To create an effective impact on the Earth’s environment, the mirrors would need to have a surface area of around 600,000 miles. The cost of launching this number of mirrors is estimated at $10,000 per pound, which if summed up would be around 26 times the US national debt.

The disadvantages

Although launching these numbers of mirrors into space would benefit the overall Earth’s environment but it has its drawback too. As per the research that has been conducted it’s estimated that although the Earth will cool down as a result of this task but the negative part is that America and Eurasia will receive less rainfall as an impact of this effort. This will result in droughts across these regions. Scientists believe that maintaining both temperature and rains by artificial means such as launching the mirrors into space is a near-impossible task to achieve.

The idea

Renowned scientist Lowell Wood of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory introduced this idea for the very first time before the US government. Although Lowell Wood is quite confident about his research and following the proposition of launching the mirrors, he is still apprehensive due to high amount of money involved (trillion of dollars) and the maintenance of this project once it’s completed.

Apart from placing the space mirrors into the Lagrange point to help fight global warming, some other theories are also prevalent that claim to reduce the Earth temperature rise. One such theory is placing highly reflective balloons into the space, which shall surround the earth and will in effect block some amount of sun’s radiation from coming to the Earth. Again the cost of this space mirrors project and subsequent maintenance would be quite high similar to mirror placing project.

800px-James_Webb_Space_Telescope_Mirror37No matter how much scientific progress we may make or how much efficient we may become in executing hi tech tasks as mentioned above, still the call of the day is to leave a small carbon footprint in whatever task we do. Right from using large amounts of gas to travel from one place to another or to cut trees to make paper and other stuff, we need to carefully monitor each and every activity that contributes to global warming.

Some more strangely innovative solutions to fight global warming

1. Bury the carbon dioxide problem

CO2 emissionsThe amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising steadily and is causing global warming and the associated problems. Some scientists have suggested the construction of tombs into which compressed carbon dioxide would be pumped and the tomb sealed. This kind of burial may not work out for the gas may not ‘rest in peace’! It may leak out and start inundating the soil. There is also the question of the really high costs involved in building such a ‘gas tomb’. To counter these, they propose that the gas could be trapped in naturally occurring aquifers, depleted gas and oil fields or coal seams.

2. Sunglasses for the planet

We often make use of sunglasses to protect our eyes from the radiation. We also use sun screen on our skin to do the same. How do we shield the planet from radiation exposure? The scientists propose a strategy where a ring of light-scattering particles is created around the earth. The alternative is to have micro-aircraft orbit the earth. This ring would scatter away the excess sunlight and counteract the increased radiation absorption that has been brought about by the greenhouse gases.

3. Pump iron into the oceans

Ocean Heat Content

Here is another dramatic idea. It is a known fact that the phyto-plankton in the oceans, which are micro-organisms, take down a lot of carbon along with them as they die and sink to the ocean floor. Scientists are advocating an algal bloom in the oceans so that more carbon gets trapped into this plankton debris. Since the plankton growth is stimulated by iron, they suggest pumping lots of iron into the ocean and many companies have already attempted this to reduce their carbon footprint. But such measures may seriously affect the oceanic ecosystems.

4. Promoting algal blooms in the oceans

Environmentalist, futurologist and the one who gave the Gaia hypothesis, James Lovelock, views the earth as one giant organism. He suggests that we help the earth heal itself like every organism does. The algae on the surface of the ocean consume a lot of carbon dioxide as explained earlier. Lovelock suggests that these algae be supplied with nutrients so that they grow better and trap more of the gas. And to do this, he suggests the construction of pipes that bring the nutrient-rich waters at the ocean bottom to the surface. These are solutions that have never been tried before and so, it is difficult to assess their effectiveness beforehand.

5. Planting more trees

planting-trees

What is so wacky about this idea? It is the most common solution right? The scientists at Institution of Mechanical Engineers have in mind, a variant of the idea. They suggest planting artificial trees! These trees will actually be carbon dioxide sucking machines. They will have ten thousand times more capacity than an average tree. So the suggestion is to cover an area with 100,000 suck fake trees! Though the solution seems simple, the problem lies in storing the trapped gas. What would one do with it?

6. Living in trash

Though it sounds real crazy, this idea is actually a neat one by a researcher from the University of Leeds. He has come up with a construction material that is made by recycling used wastes – glass, ash and sludge. This material is strong and hardy. It also consumes less energy to make compared to concrete blocks. Thus, instead of going into landfills, the wastes can be ‘constructively’ used to make homes and offices. Similar solutions have arrived wherein scientists suggest the use of farmyard wastes like feathers to make recyclable plastic.

7. Banning plastic bags and bulbs

plastic bag

China, Australia and recently, even San Francisco have jumped into the bandwagon to completely ban the use of plastic bags and bulbs. It is a legal offense to use them in these places. Plastic bags can be replaced with reusable cloth bags or recyclable and biodegradable paper bags. The incandescent bulbs are to be replaced with LED lights which provide better lighting and are also energy efficient. This is a solution that everyone can adopt with least problems in lifestyle and way of life. It is very effective in the long run too.