“Other research has warned of potentially catastrophic impacts from a temperature rise of this kind.”
I believe that developing processes to stabilize the Earth’s climate will teach us how to do it elsewhere. We can start terr-forming Earth right now, by developing space-based energy approaches that can help drive processes to sequester carbon dioxide.
Recognition of the need to change is a social problem that, while important, requires a majority of the public to change, and change rapidly. This can be very difficult by itself.
Another problem that I have with these approaches is that at base they only affect the US. Canada can still find a way to get its fossil fuels sold and China can still find ways to buy it.
While changing social viewpoints is really important, there have to be solutions that can work even if the US takes unilateral action. And this involves the technology solutions that often get pooh-poohed. No one does technology like the US.
This can be done at the same time we try in change society. In fact, I think it helps change society to provide more than just a hectoring approach. The prophet of Revelation provides little other than fear.
Technology is as important as social changes, if not more so. Because the technology that can change the world can be done by a relatively small group of people. We do not need to convince everyone for them to succeed.
Say for example that the exponential economy fairly rapidly allows us to create fuel from the very things that are causing the problem. The Navy is working on a system to remove carbon dioxide from sea water to create jet and rocket fuel. They believe it can be competitive with oil, at $3-6 a gallon.
There are others looking to do the same thing using air. The same economic processes that are driving burning fossil fuels are also driving these developments, but the incentives are a little different and the opportunities will be huge, especially as society begins to change.
Now, while these approaches will not actually reduce CO2 emissions, they can provide a path to greatly reduce emissions by essentially recycling the CO2.
In order to reduce the carbon dioxide in the air, we will need to expend energy, so we need access to large amounts of clean energy. It turns out theat this energy is not even on Earth nor would ever be accessible from Earth. Huge amounts of solar energy pass the Earth right on by, never becoming available at the ground.
It misses the Earth.
We are on the cusp of creating vast arrays of solar satellites by mining asteroids for water, iron, nicklel and raw materials., with the ability to beam huge amounts of energy back to the Earth. A single asteroid could produce 150 five gigawatt satellites (which could get more powerful as we develop more efficient solar technologies.) along with habitat space in LEO for 100,000 people.
One gigawatt is about enough to light 750,000 homes. So, one asteroid would produce enough power for over half a billion homes. Perhaps 4 of these asteroids could produce enough satellites to power current global world electric needs.
It might cost about $25 billion to construct the needed system by 2035, with pure profit afterwards.
And, because almost all the construction takes place in space, very little energy from the surface of Earth itself is needed to construct the satellites, as would have to happen to construct Earth-based systems. Thus less carbon into the atmosphere.
This is a conundrum of most Earth-based approaches – we end up burning lots of fossil fuel to create them. Here, the energy of construction is moved off the planet. We do not have to become a totally clean economy in order to construct this system.
We could have a demonstration unit operating in 15 years, producing megawatts of power. We might be able to produce 500 of these satellites in half a century. And create over 5 million new jobs.
In fact, the rocket fuel created by the Navy process could be used to get the people into space. These fuels are not used for rockets now because natural sources are usually too high in contaminants like sulfur to be effective.But the Navy process may produce fuel that is sufficiently pure to use as rocket fuel, possible reducing costs of launching.fuel With access to this energy, the need to burn fossil fuels for energy completely dissipates.
If we do not do this, I am sure someone else will, such as the Chinese or Japanese. All the tools are almost in place. We just need the will.
In addition to providing us the power we need, it allows us to use energy to remove and sequester the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans.
Could we remove enough fast enough to make a difference? It’s hard to believe that we could do that but then it was hard to beleive for most of the last century that we could affect climate as we have.
I’m a firm believer that we can accomplish more than we think, but especially if we have a path to take. The faster we get into LEO, the sooner we start changing the Earth.
Then onto the stars.