Thursday, April 21, 2005
Earth Day 2030: "A new eye blinked open upon the world"
“A new eye blinked open upon the world,” mused NASA engineer Katy Wong, watching from the observation deck at Vandenberg’s Demi-Ra Command Center. Her words unconsciously echoed the reaction of thousands across the country. Responding to what seems to have been an optical illusion created by the focusing sequence, people from every state described Demi-Ra as an “eye,” blinking two or three times before its light poured forth and observers had to look away from the brightness of this second sun in the sky.
Interviewed at his home in Virginia, Dr. Patrick Michaels, the driving force behind the Demi-Ra project, was enthusiastic, opining that “the timing of the project looks very good.” He noted that solar activity has dropped off dramatically in the last 20 years and that the Earth has cooled significantly as a result. “That puts us a little behind the curve,” he said, “but we built up enough greenhouse gases over the last century to slow the cooling down. With the climate modeling breakthroughs of the last ten years, we can be quite certain that Demi-Ra I, and the upcoming Demi-Ra II, will provide enough additional sunlight to keep another Little Ice Age from occurring.”
The most controversial aspect of the project is the variable focusing ability of the reflectors. A fixed reflector in sun-synchronous orbit would have been sufficient to achieve the project’s first requirement, which is to shine extra sun-light only onto the daylight side of the planet, leaving nocturnal creatures undisturbed. (A sun-synchronous orbit uses the asymmetry of the Earth’s mass to keep its circle facing the sun as the Earth orbits the sun.) The problem with a fixed reflector is that it would distribute the extra sunlight equally to the tropics, the temperate zones and the polar regions as the reflector traveled north to south. In contrast, Demi-Ra’s variable focus can be used to keep the extra sunlight off of the tropics and off of the ice caps. Some are alarmed, however, at the military potential of this feature.
In theory, Demi-Ra’s one thousand square miles of reflective surface can be focused on an area as small as one square mile. Fearful of this destructive potential, thousands of peace activists planned a massive “die in” for San Francisco today. Dressed as burnt ants, the activists were planning to curl up in intersections across the city when Demi-Ra came on-line, but it didn’t quite work out that way. When Demi-Ra “blinked to life” in startlingly life-like fashion, the ant-suited protesters were more than a little unnerved. In what seemed to be a genuine panic, protestors at tens of locations across San Francisco started running for cover, many screaming hysterically.
“It looked right at me! It looked right at me!” one protester cried over and over as she huddled the foyer of the Fairmont hotel. Police were nonplussed, but expressed relief that at least the “die in” was short lived. Similar panic attacks struck protestors in other North American and European cities. No other segment of society seems to have been affected. A spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control said that the “panic phenomenon” would be monitored. “On the plus side,” he joked, “I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more street-rallies from the Al Qaeda remnant.”
At the new United Nation complex in Harare, Zimbabwe, “contrarian” climatologist Stephen Schneider sounded a warning note. “As I have been saying since the 1970’s, the cause of global cooling is human economic activity. If we want to counteract global cooling, economic activity must be drastically curtailed. Demi-Ra just enables industrial society to proceed apace with its destructive impact.” A reporter reminded Dr. Schneider that from 1980 to 2010, when global temperatures were rising, Dr. Schneider, then at Stanford University, had claimed that human activity was causing global warming, and therefore needed to be curtailed. “As you can see,” Dr. Schneider answered, “I have been perfectly consistent.”
Also at the United Nation news conference was Dr. Paul Ehrlich, who declared that Demi-Ra would cause mass starvation by 2040. “It will lengthen the growing season in temperate regions,” Ehrlich predicted. “The resulting increase in food production will create population growth. Soon there won’t be enough food for the increased population and everyone will die.” A reporter reminded Dr. Ehrlich that he had predicted mass starvation by the mid 1970’s, the mid 80’s, the mid 90’s, by 2010, by 2020 and by 2030. “That is not consistent enough for you?” Dr. Ehrlich parried, receiving a sharp nod of approval from Dr. Schneider.
The one nation that actually is starving is Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s Dictator for Life, Kojo Annan, owns the entire country and insists that “I won’t allow people to steal from me by growing food on my property and eating it.” Zimbabwe’s population is down to 2 million, from 12 million in the year 2000. The country’s problems are compounded by the fact that Venezuela, when it pulled out of the United Nations last month (prompting the name change to United Nation), also ended its oil subsidies to Zimbabwe. Without Venezuelan oil, Zimbabwe’s downward population trend is expected to continue. “That is a good thing,” suggested Dr. Ehrlich, explaining that “the more people who starve today, the less competition there will be for food tomorrow.”
Russia, on the other hand, seems to be looking forward to being well fed—and warm—in the present. Each nation gets to decide where its allotment of extra sunlight will be directed. The Russian plan is to warm Russian cities during the long Russian winter, then in spring and fall, to create extended growing seasons in selected farming areas. Dry regions like Mongolia and the Western United States are planning to concentrate much of their Demi-Ra allotment onto fields of solar-electric generating panels. Countries can also trade their allotments on the open market.
The Demi-Ra company, a private corporation regulated by the United States government, will receive 10% of the market value of each country’s allotment in perpetuity. “If they don’t give us our cut, they don’t get the sunlight,” said Demi-Ra CEO Michael Petras, in attendance at the Vandenberg countdown. “Hey, we ought to be getting more,” he added unapologetically. “The government thought we needed to give up 90% to grease the international wheels. That’s a LOT!” Company President Aman Verjee, also in attendance agreed that: “The government drove a hard bargain, but it was still a no-brainer.” “Even at 10%, the margins are HUGE,” Petras roared, knocking Verjee backwards. “Once we looked at Dr. Michaels’ plans and started running the numbers, it was just a matter of getting congressional approval. Everyone with a dollar wanted in.”
That approval came with the changing of the guard in the climatology profession. When solar activity fell off after 2010, and global temperatures started falling with it, the old “global-warming consensus” was routed by solar-warming theory. Solar-warmists had until then been dismissed as a minor subset of a small cadre of egregiously wrong “contrarians.” By 2020, the global-warmists had become the new “contrarians” and Demi-Ra advocates like Dr. Michaels (an early “contrarian,” but not originally a solar-warmist) were able to get their enabling legislation.
“It is a great achievement,” said Michaels. “If Demi-Ra’s orbit holds, and its structure proves robust, we just might have bought ourselves a permanent inter-glacial. If the design turns out to be less robust than we hope, improved models are already on the drawing board. We’ll learn by doing for a couple of years, then decide how to proceed with Demi Ra II.” Demi Ra I has an expected service life of a century. As a major investor in the Demi-Ra project, the United States government expects to earn a substantial net return.
To learn more about solar-warming theory, see Alec’s twenty-five year old article “Global warming’s omitted variable,” available on line in archives of The Stanford Review, 2/15/2005.