Govt OKs Cosmic Blocking; Why Not Cosmic Nudging

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Govt OKs Cosmic Blocking; Why Not Cosmic Nudging; Different Types of Geoengineering To Fight Global Warming

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 5, 2023) – A congressionally mandated report just released by the White House reveals that the Biden administration is open to studying whether and to what extent it might be possible to use Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI) and/or Marine Cloud Brightening [MCB] – two forms of Solar Radiation Modification or sun blocking [SRM] – to fight global warming.

Scientists Suggest Cosmic Nudging To Fight Global Warming

But many scientists have raised the alternative idea of very slightly enlarging the Earth’s existing orbit (“cosmic nudging”) – another form of “geoengineering” which has been defined as the “deliberate large-scale manipulation of an environmental process that affects the earth’s climate” – to also limit the need to radically slash the emission of greenhouse gases, notes professor John Banzhaf of George Washington University.

This new report, entitled “Congressionally-Mandated Report on Solar Radiation Modification“, was released by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Friday, and concluded by suggesting that “a program of research into the scientific and societal implications of solar radiation modification (SRM) would enable better-informed decisions about the potential risks and benefits of SRM as a component of climate policy.”

SRM has been described as a potentially effective response to fighting climate change, but one that could have unknown side effects stemming from altering the chemical makeup of the atmosphere. See, e.g.: The European Union Is Getting Nervous About Atmosphere-Altering Geoengineering

But there is still another alternative – in addition to limiting the emission of greenhouse gases, or using SAI, MCB, space-based approaches to SRM (commonly, “mirrors in space”), or local-scale measures to increase surface reflectance (e.g., “white roofs”) – which should at least be considered, says Banzhaf, especially in light of a very pessimistic report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the earth’s surface temperature will increase over the current century even under all assessed emission scenarios.

In other words, despite valiant efforts (e.g. the Paris Agreement) to pressure countries to fight global warming by drastically slashing their own greenhouse gas emissions (by decreasing fossil fuel consumption and investing in greener and cleaner sources of energy), that approach to the problem seems not to be working.

Using Nuclear Fusion To Generate Energy

Now, especially in light of a recent report in the Wall Street Journal that Tech Billionaires Bet on Fusion as Holy Grail for Business, and reports that a nuclear fusion reactor has created more energy than was put into it – i.e. has for the first time generated net power – there may in the near future be enough energy to increase Earth’s orbit by a mere 0.3% which would be enough, by itself, to counteract global warming.

Fusion power “has no limits if you can get it to work,” notes Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce and a major investor in Commonwealth Fusion Systems, which aims to create compact fusion power plants. The company explains that “nuclear fusion could provide limitless clean energy with almost zero pollution and no radiation or radioactive waste. ‘One glass of water will provide enough fusion fuel [hydrogen] for one person’s lifetime,’ the company predicts on its website.”

In short, says Prof Banzhaf, an MIT gradate with two U.S. patents and several papers to his name, nuclear fusion might be able to provide sufficient energy to make it possible to increase earth’s orbit by the tiny amount [only 0.3%] necessary to completely overcome global warming; an approach now being discussed and analyzed which could involve cosmic nudging.

Drawing upon the original suggestion by Matteo Ceriotti, Lecturer in Space Systems Engineering at the University of Glasgow, Prof. Banzhaf has calculated that increasing Earth’s orbit by only 0.3% could completely offset global warming; thereby serving as an alternative (or as a supplemental approach) to achieving worldwide cooperation in slashing emissions of greenhouse gases by drastically modifying western and other lifestyles.

For more details of the analysis, see USING COSMIC NUDGING [Changing the Orbits of Asteroids] TO FIGHT GLOBAL WARMING and, more recently, Banzhaf: Fusion Power Achieved – Now, Can It Nudge Earth Into a New Orbit? 

While even this tiny 0.3% change in Earth’s orbit would require enormous amounts of energy – energy which might be generated by nuclear fusion – the change could be achieved in a number of different proven ways: e.g., employing an electric thruster (an ion drive), constructing a huge solar sail, or utilizing a gravitational sling shot effect by changing the orbits of asteroids.

Gravity Assist

The latter – sometimes called “gravity assist” (in which a spacecraft changes its orbital energy and angular momentum by making a close approach with a celestial body, using the body’s gravity as a slingshot) or more recently “cosmic nudging” – was first proposed in 1925 by spaceflight pioneer Friedrich Zander.

It was first implemented in 1959 by the Soviet’s Luna 3 in its mission to photograph the far side of the moon. Since then, a number of interplanetary probes, including the Voyagers, Mariner, or Galileo, have also applied the technique.

As Banzhaf noted, it might even be possible to exploit so-called “Δv leveraging” in which a body such as a large asteroid can be nudged slightly out of its orbit and, as a result, years later, could swing past the Earth, providing a much larger impulse to increase Earth’s orbit by a tiny amount.

The concept of altering the orbits of asteroids to help sling shot Earth into a slightly different orbit gained traction when NASA recently reported that its test to determine whether it could accurately catch up to and then deflect an asteroid greatly surpassed expectations. Originally expected to reduce the asteroid’s orbit by only 73 seconds, the collision which NASA deliberately caused increased the orbital period by an astonishing period of 32 minutes.- giving it a boost more than 25 times as powerful as scientists had hoped for.

More details about how such a cosmic nudge might be accomplished can be found at Can A Change In Orbit Save Planet Earth?

Another approach to achieving a slightly larger Earth orbit was recently proposed in Can We Use a Giant Thruster to Change Earth’s Orbit?

Interestingly, even famed astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson has weighed in on alternatives to reducing greenhouse gasses to fight global warming. Here’s how he put it:

“It sounds a little crazy but what he’s speaking of is what we call geoengineering. . . So if he wants to think of a geoengineering that could help it, I don’t have a problem with that. Even if it’s a little out there – and people have thought about putting sarkely reflective particles above the clouds to reflect away more sunlight. That would be earlier than changing Earth’s orbit so I don’t have a problem with thinking about that.”

Moreover, and more importantly, recent detailed calculations by an astrophysicist, as outlined in a newly published paper, have also lent more credence to Banzhaf’s original suggestion that a cosmic nudge approach be considered.

It’s entitled CORNELL UNIVERSITY – Gravity-Assist as a Solution to Save Earth from Global Warming

“We propose using the gravity-assist by the asteroids to increase the orbital distance of the Earth from the Sun. We can manipulate the orbit of asteroids in the asteroid belt by solar sailing and propulsion engines to guide them towards the Mars orbit and a gravitational scattering can put asteroids in a favorable direction to provide an energy loss scattering from the Earth. The result would be increasing the orbital distance of the earth and consequently cooling down the Earth’s temperature.”

More specifically, the paper shows how this could be accomplished within a reasonable time frame:

“The time scale to lower the orbit is about 70 yrs for a 1010 kg mass asteroid. Using the installed propulsion jet engines on the asteroids will decrease this time scale and enable us to do the asteroid maneuvering for a larger number of asteroids. This project can enable us to change the earth’s orbit and cool down its temperature by decreasing the energy flux of the sun received by the earth. This project could be feasible for the future technology on earth.”

In summary, if collectively we are willing to spend anything like the enormous amount of money necessary to slash greenhouse gas emissions (and put up with the huge lifestyle dislocations involved) on developing nuclear fusion as an energy source, and then on using it to deflect asteroids from their current orbits (and/or power a giant thruster) enough to enlarge Earth’s orbit by only a fraction of one percent, we might have a feasible alternative to overcoming global warming, argues Professor Banzhaf.