Space Exploration and Climate Change

By Deena Stryker /Journal NEO/ – Am I about to suggest that space flights affect the climate? No, the link is between the race to space and the deterioration of planet earth as a human habitat.

Four years ago, I suggested that the main reason why the US government is funding space exploration is because humans are going to need a new home in our lifetime. The recent ‘splashdown’ of two astronauts from a two-month stay at the international space station was hyped because it involved a vehicle built by a private company, Elon Musk’s Space-X. The reasons for the stay were not mentioned, but when laid side by side with recent warnings about climate, they are clear: earth is now expected to pass the relatively safe temperature increase of 1.5 degrees by 2025, with devastating consequences.

America’s foremost warming expert, Bill McKibben, recently reviewed the latest warning about climate in the New York Review of Books. He quotes author Mark Lynas, a British climate activist stating that:

“If we stay on the current business-as-usual trajectory, we could see two degrees as soon as the early 2030s, three degrees around mid-century, and four degrees by 2075 or so, corresponding to rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere,” (350 parts per million being the number not to exceed). “If we’re unlucky with positive feedback from thawing permafrost in the Arctic or collapsing tropical rainforests, then we could be in for five or even six degrees by century’s end.”

Somewhat superfluously, McKibben adds:

“That’s a paragraph worth reading again. It’s an aggressive reading of the available science (research published in early July estimates we could cross the 1.5-degree threshold by 2025), but it’s not outlandish. And it implies an unimaginable future. Two degrees will not be twice as bad as one, or three degrees three times as bad. The damage is certain to increase exponentially, not linearly, because the Earth will move past grave tipping points as we slide up this thermometer.”

Earthlings first encountered the word exponential in The Limits to Growth, which in 1972 warned about doubling times of population growth as opposed to familiar linear increases. A team organized around Dennis and Donna Meadows foresaw that if trends continued, we would see concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere of 350 parts per million by 2000. According to McKibben’s organization, 350, 400 parts per million was reached in 2013.

Two Hollywood films, Soylent Green, in 1973, and Elysium, in 2013, foreshadow what earthlings could face. In the first, food is distributed by heavily armed police, and in Elysium, they keep a brutal order among the lower classes left behind when space was colonized. Hitler perfected fascism in the name of Lebensraum for the German people – room to live. Trump is updating his methods for The Survival of the Fittest by allowing COVID-19 to decimate the ranks of Blacks, Mexicans and those once known as ‘white trash’. The media accuses the president of disregarding science, when in reality he is using it to defend White Supremacy, winnowing the ranks of unneeded workers as robots take over.

While backing economic warfare between the minority that has accumulated unimaginable wealth and a multi-colored majority, Western governments are laying the foundations for a home in space, whether the moon turns out to be potentially habitable, or man-made planets will have to be built. Authors of the latest books on global warming hope that somehow the human species will be capable of turning the planet around, while governments prepare for a more likely future in which a generation raised on ‘ever more’ will be forced to create a minimalist lifestyle just to survive.

Journal NEO
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