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MIT’s space bubble to tackle climate change – Opinions & Blogs News – WION

In an attempt to stop global warming and reverse its impact, a group of MIT researchers is exploring the idea of fighting climate change using a variation from the common geoengineering of a solar shield of “space bubbles” that would float above the Earth to block and reflect the incoming sun’s rays without risk of any interference with the Earth’s biosphere. The space bubbles research project proposes building a floating “raft” of frozen bubbles made of a thin filmed material that can be manufactured in space.

Having its root in ideas by scientist James Early, who first suggested deploying a deflective object at the Lagrangian Point, and astronomer Roger Angel, who proposed the bubble-raft, these Bubbles once interconnected would cover an area as large as the size of Brazil, will be floated at L1 Lagrangian Point. It is the stable point in outer space where the Earth’s gravitational pull equals the sun.

One of the key reasons for climate change is the greenhouse effect which traps the incoming Solar Radiation from Sun in the atmosphere, hence resulting in a further rise in temperature. The idea was to find a solution that should not interfere with the earth’s atmosphere but supplement the current climate change mitigation efforts.

“Geoengineering might be our final and only option,” said Ratti, who is the head of MIT’s Senseable City Lab. “Yet, most geoengineering proposals are earth-bound, which poses tremendous risks to our living ecosystem.”
“Space-based solutions would be safer – for instance, if we deflect 1.8 per cent of incident solar radiation before it hits our planet, we could fully reverse today’s global warming.” 

Apart from its non-interfering property, another advantage of this particular kind of solar shield is its reversibility i.e., the bubbles could be deflated and removed from their position and then can be inflated back. The most promising material to build such spheres would be silicon, transported to space in molten form, or graphene-reinforced ionic liquids.

A successful preliminary experiment is already carried out by the team at MIT where a spherical shell is inflated in outer space conditions and is believed to be one of the most efficient thin-film bubble-shaped structures for deflecting incoming solar radiation.

As of now, the project is a working hypothesis, but the interdisciplinary team hopes to receive support to conduct a feasibility study that would involve further experimentation and analyses of these shields under various conditions. It will help to identify the right structure as well as materials that would be shipped from the earth for the creation of such space bubbles. It will also help to understand the positioning and stabilization of the shield, shading efficacy, cost efficiency, maintenance, and end-of-life transition, impact on climate and ecosystem, as well as public policy implications.

One such Public Policy debate is whether geoengineering of such a space bubble would undermine the ongoing effort to curb fossil fuel burning and may encourage people to see the shift away from fossil fuels as less important.

Even though Geoengineering has proven controversial, United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) has focused on it as a necessary alternative, in case we fail to control the temperature rise at a manageable level.

Other geoengineering proposals in consideration include: – 

1. Sucking carbon dioxide from the air, 

2. Pumping gas into the stratosphere to reflect some of the incoming solar radiation, 

3. Brightening marine clouds to make them more reflective, and 

4. Modifying the Earth’s albedo with white roofs or reflective coverings for deserts.

(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. Nor does WION or ZMCL endorse the views of the writer.)

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