Scientists warming up to Moon dust, Earth’s proposed sun shield, is not cool
Dusting off a controversial approach to fighting climate change, new research proposes firing lunar dust into space.
Updated Feb 21, 2023 | 04:25 PM IST
Artist's illustration of dust on the Moon's surface | Credit: NASA
- A group of researchers believes Moon dust launched into space could help decelerate global warming.
- The lunar dust moonshot is the latest in a series of sci-fi-esque, if controversial proposals.
- Climate scientists argue that it could have catastrophic consequences for the planet.
Stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI), one of the most researched solar geoengieering approaches, is a theoretical proposal to spray tiny reflective particles into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back into space and cool the planet | Pexels
More trouble than it's worthExperts believe this approach, at best, is a last resort and, at worst, a “high-stakes gamble” — given its unintended and potentially catastrophic consequences already known to us.
“Nuclear power and geoengineering are not solutions to the ecological crisis; they are a doubling down on exactly the kind of reckless, short-term thinking that got us into this mess. Just as we spewed greenhouse gases into the atmosphere thinking that tomorrow would never come, both of these hugely high-risk technologies would create even more dangerous forms of waste, and neither has a discernible exit strategy."
- Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate
The case against solar geoengineeringLast year, a group of 380 scientists signed an open letter asking world leaders to pledge against the moonshot proposal, citing the enormous risk that comes with an underwhelming increase in albedo — the ratio of sunlight reflected by a planet to the incoming solar radiation.
“[The proposed] efforts to offset carbon dioxide-caused warming with sunlight reduction would yield a very different climate, perhaps one unlike any seen before in Earth’s history, with massive shifts in atmospheric circulation and rainfall patterns and possible worsening of droughts,” he explained.
- Michael E. Mann
Political Pandora’s boxMining expeditions on the lunar surface, let alone the proposal of shooting Moon dust off into space, would be an inextricable web of bureaucracy — thanks to contradictory space policies.
No substitute for decarbonisation
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