Snow-Melting Satellites

Patrick Collins, a PhD economist who lives in Japan, has been a long-time promoter of space tourism, but he has also been interested in solar-power satellites. Many have promoted them as a means to mitigate greenhouse gases, but three years ago, he presented a paper in Nagoya on their use in preventing the next glacial advance, which would be much more catastrophic than any of the climate frights conjured up by the warm mongers. He writes:

The webmaster of spacefuture.com [presumably, Peter Wainwright] refuses(!) to put this paper into the Space Future library which we founded together! Living and working in NYC seems to have made him “politically correct” (i.e. unscientific) – and also “warmist”! This despite the fact that any arguments that once existed for the theory that human emissions of CO2 could lead to catastrophic “global warming” (now morphed into “climate change”) have been totally destroyed by ever-growing scientific evidence – including notable work by Burt Rutan.

This evidence has grown by leaps and bounds in the three years since this paper was written. For a taste of the power of private citizens dedicated to scientific truth, and armed with the Internet and Freedom of Information laws, wattsupwiththat.com is hard to beat.

When we wrote this paper, neither of us had read Fallen Angels, in which Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn – back in 1991 – prefigured both the key ideas: that the coming of the next Ice Age is a far greater threat than any possible warming, and that solar-generated microwave beams from orbiting satellites offer a unique means of combatting the spread of glaciers. NB it will require a massive “crash program” to ramp production up to a scale that could save western civilisation – a cool 1 million square kilometres of solar panels in various orbits! Sadly they were also prophetic about the degeneration of the US government. Perhaps holding back the glaciers could become the trigger to wake people up and develop space at last? Their book receives honourable mention in the follow-up paper being published soon.

I’ve uploaded the paper to my own site, for anyone interested, despite Peter’s truculence in that regard.

17 thoughts on “Snow-Melting Satellites

  1. Bart

    Great, let’s launch a project with definite capability to change a global climate we don’t understand. What could go wrong?

    1. Arizona CJ

      Said another way;
      Great, let’s do absolutely nothing about even thinking of developing a system that has a SECONDARY capability of altering global climate via melting of growing ice sheets IF the next ice age STARTS.

      For some strange reason, that’s doesn’t sound like a great plan to me, seeing as how we ARE heading for a new ice age (it’s a question of when, not if, and the current interglacial is already longer than average by quite a bit).

        1. Arizona CJ

          That does not seem applicable, as the system would only be used for its secondary purpose (melting snow) AFTER the harm (the ice age onset) had occurred.

          To use a medical analogy, major surgery carries risks (such as death) so it would not be wise before a problem, but once the problem has occurred, the calculus changes. The same is true of climate intervention; while it may well be unwise to do now, doing so after the onset of an ice age is an entirely different matter.

          Bear in mind; an ice age would be the greatest disaster in human history by several orders of magnitude, and would last for longer than the human race has existed.

  2. PeterH

    A swarm of solar mirror satellites could be used both to warm or cool by modifying the solar flux by a few percent. Or create severe weather by warming one area while cooling a nearby area.

  3. wodun

    Aside from the negative take on global warming, is there anything wrong with this paper that would get it excluded under normal circumstances?

  4. Der Schtumpy

    Most people just watch a satellite like that, so they can pop some corn, so they can watch “Real Genius”.

  5. George Turner

    On a somewhat related note, a year or so ago I calculated that it would take about ten normal size nuclear powerplants to pump water (at about 85% pumping efficiency) into central Antarctica or some other remote, arctic place where it would take centuries to get back to the ocean, if not thousands of years, at a pumping rate that would drain water from the ocean faster than the IPCC’s worst predictions of sea level rise.

  6. Patrick Collins

    For me the most important point is the growing understanding of “rapid onset” of Ice Ages.
    As the analysis of past climates (typically slicing of mud cores, ice cores and so on) gets more precise – now apparently on a year-by-year basis in some cases, rather than century-by-century – it seems that “rapid onset” may even be the norm.
    That would kill everyone from Moscow to Seattle in a few weeks!
    The end of our civilisation.
    But it’s also something we may be able to resist IFF we’ve already developed the ability to mass-produce solar-panels and power-beaming antennas in orbit.
    That’s quite a big project, but essentially straightforward super-mass-production.
    Developing the ability would also create a great market for the guys who have plans for lunar and asteroid mining.
    Oh, and of course it would also require cheap access to orbit :-)

    Related question: WHAT ON EARTH does Nasa spend $18 billion/year on, now that it doesn’t have the space shuttle to play with?

      1. John Bray

        Hi Patrick, I don’t think we’ve talked for 20 years.

        While I heartily disagree with your opinions on global warming, it also seems unwise to reveal your hand so soon.

        Its hardly good tactics if you want to build a $trillion project like SPS to claim its purpose is to counter scientific orthodoxy. Much better to get the ball rolling by claiming it just replaces conventional power sources, but when its working reveal its secondary purpose to save us from the glaciers, to huge approbation.

  7. Patrick Collins

    Hi John,
    The way I see it, I don’t think anyone can predict whether SPS-supplied power will be competitive a few decades from now with whatever other major power sources are around then: shale gas? kelp farms? geo-thermal? . . and of course oil and clean(?) coal?
    But heading in the direction of developing SPSs will develop at least 5 other major uses: low-cost electricity in orbit (1/4 the cost as delivered to Earth – no wireless power transmission system cost, and no 50% losses thereby), a lunar power source convenient for supplying large-scale power through the lunar night, an incentive to finally develop low-cost launch systems (which will have the “spinoff” of a space tourism industry :-) , a stimulus for developing the use of ETMs – which AOT would end the silly scare talk about “resource wars”, and of course a means to combat the Ice Age for whenever it arrives.
    So a decision to develop SPS – through a series of ever larger satellites – seems to be a good “axis” for space development, since it seems unlikely that ALL 5 uses would fail.

    1. John Bray

      If SPS aren’t cost effective for terrestrial power supply, then all you are doing is diverting power company R&D money into other areas, which doesn’t seem appropriate. I’m not convinced in-orbit power is valuable, and using their cash to lower launch costs so space tourism takes off seems a poor outcome, when the money could have been spend researching alternative power systems on earth, or designing earth-based climate control systems.

      However you think the climate might change, I can see merit in having the ability to stop it, but I want that to be easy to disable or enable at low tech levels. The very worst thing would be space mirrors/sunshades that need guaranteed space access in perpetuity to keep them going, and I fear that SPS have similar issues.

  8. Patrick Collins

    Noone knows which new energy technologies will be best in 50 years or 100 years from now. So a good energy policy is to invest in lots of promising new ideas so long as they seem promising. To date, energy policies have been very imbalanced – huge subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear, recently fairly huge subisidies for terrestrial solar and wind, and almost no funding whatever for SPS. There should already have been SPS demonstrator satellites – but SPS seems to have fallen between two stools – space agencies who say they’re not responsible for energy, and energy agencies who say they don’t know anything about space technology.

    The current Japanese project to build a small KW-scale SPS demonstrator satellite, if successful, will lead on to a 100-KW scale demonstrator. If that’s successful then on to MW, 100MW and eventually GW. An excellent approach, of potentially far greater economic value than all other space agency projects, at very low cost at the present stage.
    Of course, each phase of the project should get judged and compared to other energy options that are being developed. But the recent spending of tens of billions on hopelessly expensive terrestrial solar and wind power systems but NOTHING for SPS research is ridiculous, and not based on any rational calculation.

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