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Terraforming Earth


Michele Dutcher


In this month’s issue of Science News (Dec 2015) there is a bookshelf review of The Planet Remade by Oliver Morton.  The author advocates geoengineering Earth by: generating artificial volcanic eruptions; seeding colossal clouds that shade the planet; covering the oceans in immense algal blooms; and using solar sails. 

These 4 proposals are personally gratifying to me as a science fiction writer because they are specifically part of a sci-fi novel I published years ago called Outrunning the Storm.In my novel, the daily SOPs (standard operating procedures) of these four last ditch efforts to decrease global warming are executed by three super computers. Collectively they are named G.O.D. – the Global Orbiting Directive.

I set my novel at the end of the process where the planet’s temperature has been lowered to such a degree that G.O.D. is basically turning out the lights on the program and is now free to propel itself to other star systems, to explore the universe as much as it wants.

One place that I differ from Oliver Morton is in how to pay for the system.  He suggests charging space tourists to ride in the planes needed to seed the clouds with tiny disco balls.  I believe a program of this size will take much more funding than these rides can possibly generate. However, I do see the funding necessary come from the same group of people – the world’s upper one percent.

To me it is the obvious conclusion as this is the group who has profited the most from Earth’s industrialization and contamination and they alone have the necessary resources to initiate and maintain the program.

Think of it this way: let’s imagine there is a 10 x 10 grid making 100 boxes. There is a man living inside of each one of the boxes.  There are 100 dollar bills available to fund the grid, but instead of that money being evenly distributed, the guy in the top left hand corner has 50 dollars, the next 9 guys share $37.70; the next 40 guys share $11.30.  The 50 guys on the bottom have 2 pennies apiece. The top 1% who have half the global wealth are basically a world government unto themselves.

Unfortunately, the political nations of Earth are beginning to see concrete effects of the world’s global temperature change.  Here in the USA, for instance, a decade long drought hit California – one of our nation’s primary bread baskets.  The only way this food producing area was able to continue to harvest crops was by sucking up all the deep water in natural aquifers hundreds of feet below the surface. It will take a century to refill those aquifers – IF there are no more droughts.  But, of course, there will be more droughts – decade long droughts followed by mass migrations of people looking for clean fresh water. These migrations will easily equal and surpass the dust bowl migrations of the 1930s leading to political upheaval as millions starve.

Even if we could blink our eyes and magically produce a G.O.D. program today, it would take half a century to slow down and repair the damage already done to our planet’s environment.

So who is to front the money to Save the Earth? Not the 90 percent on the bottom who are controlled by the nations they live in, whose comparatively tiny gross national products are going to continue to shrink due to the effects of global drought.

I vote for the guy in the upper left hand corner who actually has the resources to pay for these programs - the guy with $50.  Not only would he be saving humanity from extinction but the rest of Earth’s creatures as well. The one percent may be saying to itself, ‘We’ll build cities like giant terrariums, like the city in Logan’s Run – and we’ll wait it out, living in luxury while the Earth heals itself.' However, if Global Warming continues unabated and humanity is decreased to numbers seen during the last ice age, this planet won’t return to an Eden-like garden.  Instead it will become something closer to the desert planet in Dune.  The owner of the factory needs to pay to have it updated before the factory catches on fire.

It couldn’t happen you say? Cast your eyes towards Mars, a planet that once had oceans of liquid water and is now an icy rock after losing its atmosphere. That is where our planet is heading – barren desolation – except we are closer to our star, Sol so our surface is going to dry up in the heat, at least at first.

In exchange for saving the planet, we could offer these families control of a newly formed worldwide government. We could name them The Council and admit that without their funds, civilization is a goner.

As Science Fiction writers we all love to put our characters in apocalyptic landscapes, but in reality a healthy Earth is a better prospect for our stories because if the humans are gone, there won’t be anyone left to read our stories.

Is the idea of terraforming Earth merely Science Fiction? – I hope not.


2015-12-31 09:22:41
micheledutcher - Wesson: I definitely agree that it's good that we've had a hearty discussion about this topic since seeing a topic from a variety of viewpoints is a healthy way to evaluate and/or assert our own viewpoints. Lively debate is an essential part of being human. Really, no one is going to listen to a publication so far down the food chain, but I enjoy a good debate as much as the next guy. Md

2015-12-28 21:49:13
Wesson - I don’t mean to split hairs but I said scientists have been wrong in the past. Much like reporters, their politics can affect their work as well. Without the integrity of scientists, the whole scientific process isn’t much better than religion in explaining things. I fear those who become stressed when faced with honest skepticism about man-made climate change have more in common with faith-based religion than they’d like to admit. Aside from that, I know this whole topic is supposed to be above debate but at least we all got to say our piece and I think that’s a good thing.

2015-12-28 05:40:33
micheledutcher - Science has been right about a lot of things too: like gravity and medicine and electricity. Neil Degrasse Tyson is an exceptional scientist, and I agree with him. Tyson has been outspoken in the past about climate denial, and the need for politicians, the media, and the public to accept the science on climate change. He spoke out against the media’s need to create “balance” in stories about climate change and other scientific issues last year, saying giving equal time to people who deny widely accepted scientific theories doesn’t make sense. He also spoke last year of the need to address climate change instead of arguing about it.

2015-12-26 18:28:46
Wesson - You’re right RT; there are higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. It is also true that the climate is changing. But jumping from this innocuous data to terraforming Earth and forcibly altering the lifestyle of every human being is downright reactionary. The CO2 we exhale is not a pollutant and the research showing significant increases in global temperatures are anywhere from unreliable to compromised by alarmists who are just upset with the industrialized world. At the very least we should send our man-made climate change theory back to the drawing board. Scientists have been wrong about so many things in the past.

2015-12-24 11:16:35
r.tornello - me and my typos re note back to Wesson

(1), co2 400 ppm, (2)CO2 is a green house gas, (3)were stored, (4)@180 ppm not 18

2015-12-24 10:22:39
r.tornello - Hey Wesson, changes in concentration of co2400 ppm today as opposed to 280 in 1800 due in a large part to burning of fossil fuels. CO@ is a green hose gas. These carbon based fuels were store millions of years ago and are now being released into the atmosphere.

The last glacial period saw CO2 @18 ppm. NASA reports and Life's Engines by Paul G. Falkowski

Show me the data otherwise.

2015-12-22 20:36:51
Wesson - No one needs to pay up. No taxes or tariffs are needed. I don’t know what the future holds but as of now there is simply no problem to fix, the Earth does not need to be cooled. If, and that’s a big if, the planet’s climate turns against us it will be a natural phenomenon. At that point I think it would be far more practical to simply leave the planet which is why I whole-heartedly support the space program.

2015-12-22 19:09:17
GordonRowlinson - I propose a tariff on imports from countries that do not abide by climate change agreements. Also we could add a tax to the oil and coal companies. Use the money to fund the GOD stuff. How do the solar sails work? Are you describing orbiting shield blocking the suns rays? I once had such a device in a story several years ago.

2015-12-21 08:53:43
micheledutcher - The basic point I was trying to make was who is going to raise the cash to seed the clouds and build the solar sails and seed algal blooms. The Earth needs to be cooled, and the people who have profited the most should be the ones to pay to 'update the factory'. How can we make them pay up?

2015-12-18 21:08:22
Wesson - Humans have seen the effects of climate change since they learned to walk upright. The miniscule rise in average global temperature is consistent with long term trends and satellite data has led many scientists to conclude that there has been no significant warming for the past 21 years. Nothing is out of the ordinary yet. It seems to me that the climate change alarmists are more concerned with controlling the way people live their lives than saving the planet. Perhaps control is what this is all about.

2015-12-15 10:36:00
GordonRowlinson - The vast majority of scientists say climate change is real. I have never seen any scientist that is a climate change denier that is not being paid by the oil or the coal companies. Quite frankly, I think we should listen the expert scientists who are not being paid off. We can now see signs of climate change: rising sea levels; mega fires in the West; extreme weather. We are all in serious trouble and I for one am glad I do not own oceanfront property. Perhaps the QM should do a climate change issue. I'd like to do a climate change science fiction story. But I'm having trouble thinking up a good angle. Perhaps it is all too real.

2015-12-11 13:31:06
Exxon scientist found that humans are responsible for the change in climate. Exxon Fired all the scientists in 1998 or something like that and began a campaign to go against their own findings . We and the idiot Republican Party are the only fools on this planet to go along with Exxon (sign of the double cross might I remind you) and their paid consultants.

Look up Exxon's earlier research on climate and carbon.

2015-12-09 07:58:27
Wesson - I think the climate is changing regardless of what we do. Is it changing as fast as we are being told? No, I believe those predictions are based on manipulated data. Mr. Morton's ideas for geoengineering Earth are interesting but I’m worried about spending billions of dollars trying to fix something that might be beyond our power to fix. Perhaps adapting to climate changes is a better, cheaper alternative to fighting it. I agree with you that there may come a time when our future looks like Mars but hopefully we’ll be off the planet by the time that happens.

2015-12-09 05:20:54
micheledutcher - Wesson, are you saying that global warming is not occurring? - or that mankind is not responsible. If it's the former I hope that you are right and everything is going to be hunky-dory eventually without us doing anything. If you think that mankind is not the culprit but that the Earth is warming from natural causes, then we need to shape our environment because it is changing for the worse - for humans at least.

2015-12-08 15:27:50
Wesson - Maybe "jerk" was too harsh, I don't want to be a downer?

2015-12-08 15:20:13
Wesson - I don’t want to be a jerk but in the wake of the Climategate emails, the questionable integrity of land-based temperature stations, NOAA’s refusal to cross-check its projections with satellite data and the fact that scientists have been wrong about so many things in the past, can we consider that maybe / possibly / perhaps mankind’s activities are not changing the climate? That our egotistical rush to save the word from a non-existent enemy has clouded our judgment?

2015-12-08 09:19:03
r.tornello - Terror Forming? We're doing it now!

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