So it’s Earth Day. I remember Earth Day coming around years ago and nobody really made a big deal about it. Well, I’m happy to say that’s really changed. 2008 is looking like it will go down in the books as “The Year Of Green” or something to that effect when we look back on it in the next decade or so. The whole eco-friendly thing is finally starting to catch on.
Everywhere you look, there are environmental themes. NBC has done a ton of things to get the public on board with their “Green Is Universal” campaign. This week, in fact, is “Green Week.” All of their shows have environmental themes, including sitcoms. I applaud them for all of their work. I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it again because it’s so true. Corporate America has a tremendous amount of influence on our lives. They’re extremely powerful, and they can use that power either positively or negatively. The kind of positive energy NBC is exuding is what we need across the board.
Tomorrow, in one of my Green Wednesday weekly posts, I’ll the corporate heavyweights and their efforts more in depth. We’re making big steps in the right direction, but there’s so much more we need to do on both individual and international levels if we want to stop global warming before we’re at the point of no return, which experts on the subject claim is only about a decade away.
This is why we really need to come up with solutions to global warming, and soon. If the earth’s temperature rises just six degrees, according to the National Geographic special that I posted about previously, “Six Degrees Could Change The World,” here’s what they predict would happen. It’s pretty scary.
I couldn’t help but make another FAIL image for this one to send to the FAIL Blog. President Bush has ordered that a United States spy satellite that has lost power and is falling out of orbit (threatening many lives if it hits earth) is shot down by an SM-3 Navy missile in the Pacific Ocean tonight. As an interesting local note, tonight around 6:15 PM you should be able to see the satellite pass above Richmond. It will look like a very fast moving plane and will be very bright. The satellite only passes near our area a few times a month, so if it’s clear out this evening, see if you can spot it! Hopefully the missile hits it and the problem is taken care of, but rest assured, if they miss, I’ll have an even better FAIL image to post. Here’s the article about tonight’s mission:
A Navy heat-seeking missile is getting its first real-world use in an attempt to demolish a crippled U.S. spy satellite before the orbiting craft falls back to Earth. The targeting of the satellite — which could come Wednesday night — is not the mission for which this piece of the Pentagon’s missile defense network was intended, however. The attempted shootdown, already approved by President Bush out of concern about toxic fuel on board the satellite, is seen by some as blurring the lines between defending against a weapon like a long-range missile and targeting satellites in orbit.
The three-stage Navy missile, designated the SM-3, has chalked up a high rate of success in a series of tests since 2002, in each case targeting a short- or medium-range ballistic missile, never a satellite. A hurry-up program to adapt the missile for this anti-satellite mission was completed in a matter of weeks; Navy officials say the changes will be reversed once this satellite is down.
The government issued notices to aviators and mariners to remain clear of a section of the Pacific Ocean beginning at 10:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, indicating the first window of opportunity to launch an SM-3 missile from a Navy cruiser, the USS Lake Erie, in an effort to hit the wayward satellite.
Having lost power shortly after it reached orbit in late 2006, the satellite is out of control and well below the altitude of a normal satellite. The Pentagon wants to hit it with an SM-3 missile just before it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, in that way minimizing the amount of debris that would remain in space.
Left alone, the satellite would be expected to hit Earth during the first week of March. About half of the 5,000-pound spacecraft would be expected to survive its blazing descent through the atmosphere and would scatter debris over several hundred miles.
Adding to the difficulty of the shootdown mission, the missile will have to do better than just hit the bus-sized satellite, a Navy official said Tuesday. It needs to strike the relatively small fuel tank aboard the spacecraft in order to accomplish the main goal, which is to eliminate the toxic fuel that could injure or even kill people if it reached Earth. The Navy official described technical aspects of the missile’s capabilities on condition that he not be identified. Also complicating the effort will be the fact that the satellite has no heat-generating propulsion system on board. That makes it more difficult for the Navy missile’s heat-seeking system to work, although the official said software changes had been made to compensate for the lack of heat.
The Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates was briefed on the shootdown plan Tuesday by the two officers who will advise him on exactly when to launch the missile — Gen. Kevin Chilton, head of Strategic Command, and Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who held Chilton’s post until last summer.
China and Russia have expressed concern at the planned shootdown, saying it could harm security in outer space. At the State Department on Tuesday, spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that the U.S. action is meant to protect people from the hazardous fuel and is not a weapons test.
It’s absolutely critical that we do something right now to save our planet from certain peril. An eye-opening new special on global warming will air tomorrow night on the National Geographic Channel. It’s called “Six Degrees Could Change The World.”
In it, some of the world’s top experts on global warming lay out what to expect as the earth warms over the next century:
At 1 degree Celsius, most coral reefs and many mountain glaciers will be lost. A 3-degree rise would spell the collapse of the Amazon rainforest, disappearance of Greenland’s ice sheet, and the creation of deserts across the Midwestern United States and southern Africa. A 6-degree increase would eliminate most life on Earth, including much of humanity.
How do we fight this impending doom? Several people have some very creative, yet expensive ideas. There is hope yet. Check out the following ideas:
Simulating Volcanic Eruptions The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines sent an estimated 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide high into the stratosphere. Winds proceeded to spread it all over the planet, forming a high-level haze that reflected back light from the sun and reduced global temperature by 0.5 degrees Celsius. Nobel prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen has proposed simulating the Pinatubo effect by using artillery guns or balloons to inject sulfur into the atmosphere. (Rockets filled with sulfur could also do the trick). Crutzen calculates that the cooling effect would begin within six months and last for up to two years. Artificially duplicating Mount Pinatubo’s effects each year might cost $250 billion, though Crutzen says a relatively affordable $25-$50 billion worth would be enough to make a difference. A major downside is the possibility of creating acid rain or wreaking havoc with global weather patterns, as the eruption of the Indonesian volcanic island of Krakatoa did in the 1880s.
Lenses In Space University of Arizona astronomer Roger Angel has suggested using non-polluting, magnetically-powered vehicles—a concept that NASA is already exploring—to transport trillions of lenses made of silicon nitride film into space and deposit them near inner Lagrange point 1, an area where the combined effect of gravity of the Earth and the Sun would keep them in the same place relative to Earth’s rotation. The lenses would be about three feet across but incredibly thin, weighing about a gram. Rather than blocking sunlight, they would bend some of it slightly away from Earth, reducing the amount of energy transmitted by about 2 percent. Manufacturing the immense quantity of lenses and putting them into space—some 20 million launches would be required—make Angel’s idea a lengthy and pricey one, but he has estimated that the cost would average out to $100 billion annually over the lenses’ 50 year lifetime. The lenses would also be difficult to turn “off” if necessary, and could lead to uneven cooling effects.
Turning Pollution Into Baking Soda Burning coal to generate electricity is one of the planet’s major sources of carbon emissions. To cope with their seemingly insatiable demand for electric power, the U.S., China, and India plan to build 850 new coal-fired plants by 2012, which will spew five times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the Kyoto Protocol nations aim to eliminate. Many believe that carbon sequestration, in which carbon dioxide emissions from smokestacks are trapped and stored, is the best answer. But most ideas for what to do with the carbon dioxide—such as pumping it into manmade caverns—would be costly, and there’s always the risk that the gases will escape. That’s where a Texas-based startup company, Skyonic, and its innovative new carbon sequestration technology, gets involved. Plastic mesh sheets capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted by a power plant, which is then mixed with sodium hydroxide to produce harmless baking soda. Solids are easier to store, and since the baking soda produced is high-grade, it can be recycled for industrial applications or even used for baking. Texas utility Luminant installed a pilot version of the technology at its Brown Steam Electric Station in 2006, and Skyonics is now designing a system that it hopes to install on a large 500-megawatt power plant in 2009.