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Deploying sun umbrellas in space

Deploying sun umbrellas in space

Nothing helps: Carbon dioxide continues to rise and the greenhouse effect is racing. As a last resort, humanity can try to reduce the amount of solar radiation the Earth receives. 1 to 2% less would be enough to regain control of the mercury. But for that, they are parachutes that should be deployed into space. Or consider changing Jonah. This week, Novethic is evaluating solutions developed by geoengineering to combat global warming.

The fight against global warming goes first and foremost through our ability to reduce carbon emissions to the atmosphere as much as possible and the possibility of capturing carbon dioxide through artificial devices or ecosystems. But it is not certain that the means used by man will make it possible to win this race against the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which follows the snowball effect.

If our planet is to reach uncontrollable thresholds, we will have to resort to more extreme solutions: that is, blocking part of the solar radiation from reaching the Earth in order to reduce the greenhouse effect. So he headed into space. Since the beginning of the 2000s, the possibility of putting millions of sails or mirrors into orbit that would obscure the Earth a little has been very seriously considered.

1.5 million km

According to the calculations of the American astronomer Roger Engel, when this concept arose, it would “suffice” to turn off 1.8% of solar radiation to compensate for the effects of doubling the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. To achieve this, it will be necessary to target the point L1 of Lagrange. Lagrange points are spatial points where the Earth’s gravitational attraction and the Sun offset each other. Point L1, located between the Earth and the Sun, 1.5 million kilometers from our planet, will keep our solar parachutes in place, almost effortlessly. However, installing such a device is still very expensive and complicated.

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There is another possibility, without leaving the atmosphere. It is about imitating volcanoes. During the most powerful volcanic eruptions, the amounts of dust emitted are such that slight planetary cooling is recorded. Artificially, the idea would be to diffuse sulfur oxide into the atmosphere, at an altitude of 8 to 15 kilometers above sea level. This will allow part of the solar radiation to return to space. The logistics will be heavy as it will require continuous injection using aircraft or balloons.

These solutions cannot be implemented as first aid. On the one hand, it will require major technological developments and studies. On the other hand, it will not solve all problems. In fact, if parasols and sulfur particles lower the temperature, they will not change the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, these high concentrations have harmful chemical effects on ecosystems, particularly the oceans.

Ludovic Dubin, Tweet embed