Three astrophysicists discovered that the moon’s dust is just the right size to block the sun’s rays.
They say that humans could throw 11 million tons of lunar dust into space to create a solar shield.
But they added that their solution should not distract from efforts to reduce emissions.
Three astrophysicists have an out-of-this-world solution to the climate crisis: extract dust from the moon and use it to build a shield around Earth that blocks the sun’s rays.
Researchers Benjamin Bromley, Sameer Khan and Scott Kenyon say they have found that the moon’s dust grains could be just the right size to scatter sunlight, according to a paper published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS.
The three researchers theorize that humans could eject lunar dust mined from the moon into space and have it settle a million miles from Earth’s orbit.
If done correctly, this hypothetical solution would obscure the sun’s rays by 1.8%, or about six days of sunlight a year, and lower Earth’s temperature, theorized Bromley, a professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Utah, and his team.
Humans would need about 11 million tons of lunar dust to create a sufficiently effective “solar shield,” the researchers estimated.
One part of the plan would involve launching the dust from the moon’s surface, rather than Earth, because it would take much less energy to eject lunar dust from there, the team wrote.
“Once the dust is released, its only impact is to shade Earth. Otherwise, it will not interact with our planet again,” Bromley and his team wrote.
That means the dust shield would have no impact on Earth’s atmosphere, compared with many other Earth-based strategies for climate change, they wrote.
However, lunar dust grains would eventually start to drift out of position, and humans would have to keep firing bursts of lunar dust to replenish the shield’s strength, the scientists wrote.
Bromley, the lead researcher on the project, told The Guardian that his team’s idea should not divert focus from the main climate goal of cutting emissions to prevent the planet from warming.
“Nothing should distract us from reducing greenhouse gas emissions here on Earth,” he said, according to The Guardian. “Our strategy may simply be a shot at the moon, but we must explore all possibilities, in case we need more time to do the work here at home.”
Frank Biermann, a professor of global sustainability governance at Utrecht University, told The Guardian that he believes “blowing up the moon is not the answer we need.”
“The idea of mining the moon or near-Earth asteroids to artificially block out parts of sunlight is not a solution to the ongoing and escalating climate crisis,” he said, according to The Guardian.
Exploring ways to deflect the sun’s rays is not new to climate research. In 2022, the White House released a five-year plan to evaluate options involving “solar and other rapid weather interventions” to deal with the crisis.
A group of Harvard researchers has also been investigating the effectiveness of spraying tiny particles in the stratosphere to reflect the sun’s rays and reduce the impact of global warming. The project, known as SCoPEx, is financially backed by Bill Gates.
Bromley did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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