20 April 2007
Opinion - Power (Bad)
Global Warming...
And what the space industry can do about it
by Patrick Collins
by Dr. Patrick Collins

The Bush administration’s environmental policies have received plenty of well-deserved criticism. However, one subject its representatives have raised which deserves serious consideration is the topic of “macro-engineering” approaches to global warming.

Perhaps best-known is the idea of placing huge mirrors in space between the Sun and Earth to reduce the sunlight reaching the Earth--an alternative is to introduce SO2 into the upper layers of the atmosphere, with the same effect.

However, a major problem of these two proposals is that, although they could reduce global warming, they would not alter other effects of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, notably including making the sea progressively more acidic, which itself has numerous negative environmental effects.

Consequently, before implementing any such macro-engineering projects are seriously considered, two things are required: much much more environmental research, involving much larger budgets, and a change to genuine global cooperation, in order to arrive at decisions beneficial to all countries.

By comparison to these, the idea of space-based solar power--delivering solar generated power from space to Earth--is relatively uncontroversial.

Recognised since the late 1960s as a potentially limitless, low-CO2 source of electrical power--which would produce less CO2 than nuclear power, according to Japanese researchers--it will involve real macro-engineering in space--satellites hundreds of square kilometers in area, and all the industrial machinery to build them in orbit.

Far from being “not ready for another hundred years,” as critics like to say, this technology could already be reality. It requires just one condition--the availability of low-cost access to space. But this is of course the one project that government space agencies refuse to tackle. Consequently passenger space travel is necessary to bring it about--as large-scale passenger demand has brought the cost of air travel far down.

Governments’ policy of having delayed the economic development of space for several decades has already had a huge and growing cost on industry, economics, and human development. If we add the cost of not having developed clean power from space for 40 years, the price is truly astronomical.
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Patrick Collins 20 April 2007
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