How the Atmospheric Sun Shade Could Work

A woman reads a book under the shade of a tree as she relaxes in Hyde Park in London, England. If a quick solution to global warming ever becomes necessary, some experts have suggested shading the Earth. See more green science pictures.
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Ever since reports on global warming have cited humans as the likely cause of rising temperatures around the world, the debate about how much we're involved has hardly ceased. The production of carbon emissions, emitted after the combustion of fossil fuels, is most likely why more greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide and methane) have become trapped in the Earth's atmosphere. This effect is like a double-edged sword, because while carbon dioxide and methane allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere, they also keep it from bouncing out, raising temperatures slightly across the globe.

Some scientists also warn about the problems associated with global warming and the likely consequences if nothing is done about it. The potential dangers of global warming range from the uncomfortable to the disastrous -- according to reports, an increase in the number of kidney stones is already underway thanks to higher temperatures, whereas rising sea levels, flooding and famine represent the apocalyptic version.

Many agree that the most significant solution to combat global warming is the development of renewable energy. While that may be a long time coming, for the moment, scientists, theorists and experimentalists are thinking up temporary fixes that might help the Earth in the event of an emergency. If temperatures start rising drastically, along with instances of disease, famine and conflict, something may have to be done -- and quickly.

Some of the ideas being tossed around have been inspired by a place people often seek when we're outside and it's too hot -- the shade. A tree, an umbrella, an overhang on a building or anything else that can block the sun's rays from shining directly on us (and damaging our skin) has proven a simple but effective way to cool down.

So this has led some scientists to wonder: What would it be like to block the sun's rays on a much larger scale? Could we actually shade the Earth in some way to lower temperatures? A few experts have offered up a potential solution -- the atmospheric sun shade. But is it just science fiction, or could it actually work?