Latest Mind-Blowing Suggestion For Cooling The Planet Involves Blasting The Moon : ScienceAlert

Cloud passing over a full moon

Blowing up a cloud of dust from the moon’s surface could help cool the planet. (Darwin fan/Getty Images)

With each passing year, the effects of rising global temperatures become more apparent, while the chances of avoiding major disasters in the future dwindle with each melting glacier.

In a desperate effort to avoid worst-case scenarios, researchers have suggested various measures that could at least buy us the time we may need to mature as a society and work to repair the damage.

Blasting a steady stream of dust from the moon’s surface is the latest proposal to get a solid scientific evaluation, with University of Utah computational astrophysicist Ben Bromley and computer scientist Sameer Khan and astrophysicist Scott Kenyon of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory tentatively proposing the idea evaluate positively.

That’s not to say it falls into the “good idea” category. At least not yet. But as far as extreme measures go, it’s a plan that could entail far fewer risks and potentially lower costs than many other strategies being considered for contingency options.

Thanks to historical levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, every joule of solar radiation that warms the planet has a slightly smaller chance of returning to space.

The logical thing would be to work together to break our nasty habit of smoking fossil fuels. As shocking as it seems, it could be quicker and easier to get involved in huge engineering projects that literally reflect some of the sunlight before it hits Earth and is converted into a form that’s likely to stick as heat.

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Early proposals to add a thin veil of sulfur dioxide particles to our atmosphere appear practical and economically feasible. However, the ecological consequences could only swap one crisis for another.

Scattering a swarm of tiny parasols or blowing a curtain of fancy bubbles into space might do the trick, with the benefit of being disassembled faster than the IPCC can say, “Gosh, that sure was a mistake!”

On the other hand, the sheer amount of energy and effort required to launch a sizable flotilla and steer it into a comfortable dead zone between the Sun’s gravity and our planet is unprecedented, increasing the risk of failure.

Bromley, Khan, and Kenyon recalculated the properties of a 10 billion-kilogram dust cloud and did much the same work.

The idea itself was tossed around as a less intrusive version of sulfur suspended in Earth’s atmosphere. It has advantages over more technical space-based projects because it relies on material that does not require significant manufacturing, does not need to be launched from our surface, and does not pollute our planet.

Taking into account the shadows cast by different materials, the effects of gravitational forces, the radiation pressure of sunlight, and the influence of the solar wind, the researchers calculated the qualities and quantities of small rock fragments needed to filter out just under 2 percent of the sun’s rays.

They showed that the dust cloud would dissipate relatively quickly, depending on its size. Micron-sized grains would be pushed out of position within a week, requiring fairly regular refilling. On the plus side, no orbital adjustments would be needed should anything go wrong. Just wait a few days for the fog to clear and it’s business as usual.

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According to the researcher’s calculations, dust grains could be broken down on some orbits and shot off the moon to provide the necessary shadow for days.

Initial proposals for a cosmic dust screen to temporarily cool our planet involved the use of asteroids, but why look for distant sources of space debris when there’s a large ball of it right in our backyard?

Squirting a carefully calculated stream of lunar dust from a future lunar station at the right point between the Sun and Earth may be the least expensive and least risky means of staying cool until we come to our senses and reduce emissions.

Whether such projects ever need to be put on the table and seriously considered will depend on what we learn in the coming decades.

By the end of the century, rising sea levels, heat waves, collapsing ocean currents, and extreme weather events could have us begging for an artificial moondust volcano to save our skin.

This study was published in PLOS climate.


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