Space Ring Latest Implausible Warming Solution

The journal Acta Astronautica has published what is probably the most outlandish suggestion yet to stop global warming on Earth - a planet-girdling ring of small particles or micro-spacecraft with reflective umbrellas.

The price tag? Oh, about $6 trillion to $200 trillion for the particle solution. Much less for spacecraft.

Scattering sunlight does work; when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, the global climate cooled by about one degree. The ring could be positioned around the equator, cooling the tropics.

Of course, no idea is too outlandish for the imagination of science fiction writers like Stanislaw Lem. An artificial ring of ice was described in Stanislaw Lem's 1987 novel "Fiasco". In Lem's novel the ring was launched into space by the mysterious inhabitants of the planet Quinta for the purpose of lowering the level of the oceans to make more room on land. The ring mass is equal to about 1% of the planet's oceans. The endeavor fails probably due to political reasons before the ice can be accelerated to escape velocity. The ice remains in orbit casting a huge shadow while huge chunks of ice, slowed by the atmosphere return to the surface as a never ending torrent. Lem's protagonists speculate that the ring was launched by shooting lightning into the atmosphere creating a sort of rail gun made of air within which the ice was shot into orbit.

The ring, a flat disk with a hole that had a diameter of fifteen thousand kilometers, inside which spun the girdled planet, was made up of hunks of ice in the middle belts, but of polarized crystals of ice on the outer edges-and that, too, must have been by design. In a word, the ring was controlled in motion and shape from the very beginning; it was guided into the plane of the equator, that being stationary. But on the inside, above the equator, it became chaotic and formless...

Arthur C. Clarke also used the idea of a connected ring of satellites and space stations in his novel Fountains of Paradise:

Many of the synchronous stations were already kilometres in extent, or linked by cables which stretched along appreciable fractions of their orbit. To join them together, thus forming a ring completely around the world, would be an engineering task much simpler than the building of the Tower, and involving much less material.

No - not a ring - a wheel. This Tower was only the first spoke. There would be others (four? six? a score?) spaced along the equator. When they were all connected rigidly up there in orbit, the problems of stability that plagued a single tower would vanish.

If this article hasn't slaked your thirst for imaginative space-based solutions to global warming, be sure to read about physicist/sf author Gregory Benford's Reduce Global Warming (with a giant space lens). And, since no one has bothered to think about the problem that this would create for all other spacecraft and satellites, be sure to read Terminator Tether - EDT solution to space debris. (We've got you covered here at!)

Read more at Space Ring Could Shade Earth. And thanks to alert reader Yossi Preminger for the tip and the quote. Thanks also to Fred Kiesche for the Clarke reference.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/29/2005)

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