With the Earth at its hottest in history and humans doing little to stop it from overheating, a small but growing number of astronomers and physicists are proposing a possible solution that could come from the pages of science fiction: the equivalent of a giant beach umbrella floating in space.
The idea is to create a large umbrella to protect us from the sun and send it to a very distant point between the Earth and the sun to block a very small, but very important, amount of solar radiation enough to fight all over the world. warming up. Scientists estimate that if only two percent of solar radiation is blocked, it would be enough to cool the planet by 1.5 degrees Celsius and keep the Earth within manageable limits.
This idea has been on the periphery of conversations about climate change solutions for years. But as it gets worse, the interest in these solar shields is gaining momentum, and more and more researchers are offering some variants. There is even a foundation dedicated to promoting sun shields.
A recent study at the University of Utah analyzed dust that spread into deep space, while a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology looked at how to create a shield made of “space bubbles.” Last summer, Istvan Szapudi, an astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, published a paper that proposed anchoring a large solar shield to a repurposed asteroid.
Currently, some scientists led by Yoram Rozen, professor of physics and director of the Asher Space Research Institute at the Israel Technion Institute of Technology, say they are ready to build a prototype umbrella and prove that the idea works.
To prevent the necessary amount of solar radiation, this umbrella should be more than 2.5 million square kilometers, like the size of Argentina, Rozen said. An umbrella that size would weigh at least 2.5 million tons, too heavy to launch into space, he said. So the project should consider a set of small umbrellas. They don’t completely block sunlight but cast a relatively diffuse shadow on Earth, Rozen explained.
The researcher mentioned that his team is ready to design a prototype umbrella of 9.2 square meters and that it needs 10 to 20 million dollars to fund the demonstration.
“We can say to the world, ‘Look, there is a solution that works; we need to take advantage of it and scale it to the necessary size,'” said the scientist.
Supporters of the project say that an umbrella will not eliminate the need to stop burning oil, gas, and coal, the main promoters of climate change. Although greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels have been reduced to zero today, there is still an excess amount of carbon dioxide that keeps the atmosphere warm.
The Earth’s average temperature is about to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius above the average pre-industrial temperature. According to scientists, that is the point beyond which the likelihood of severe storms, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires will increase, and humans and other species will struggle to survive. The planet is already warming by 1.2 degrees Celsius.
According to supporters of the idea, an umbrella can help stabilize the climate, while other strategies are sought to reduce climate change.
“I’m not saying this is the solution, but I think we all have to work to find all possible solutions,” said Szapudi, the astronomer who suggested anchoring an umbrella to an asteroid.