Sorry Louie, We Can’t Alter the Earth’s Orbit to Fix Climate Change
Caroline Brehman/Congressional Quarterly/Zuma
Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.Any armchair environmental scientist will tell you that the most crucial thing we humans can do to stave off the destruction of the planet is to stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But that hasn’t stopped people from hatching harebrained and entirely unfeasible schemes to reverse the damage we’ve done.
Some say we should set up machines to suck carbon dioxide out of the air, a technology that is still in its infancy, and currently too expensive to be feasible on a large scale, among other drawbacks. Maybe, others suggest, we should undertake massive geoengineering projects, like spraying reflective particles into the atmosphere to block sunlight.
Or maybe, as Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) suggests, we should simply alter the Earth’s orbit.
During a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday, Gohmert asked a National Forest Service representative, “Is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun?” He added, “Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate.”
Jennifer Eberlien, the Forest Service’s bewildered associate deputy chief, replied, “I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert.”
A real question from @replouiegohmert: “Is there anything that the [US] can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun” to fix climate change?
A US Forest Service representative: “I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert.” pic.twitter.com/46ZVw2vCIW
— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) June 9, 2021
A 2001 article in The Guardian actually discusses the concept of harnessing the gravitational energy of an asteroid or comet to push the Earth a little farther a way from the sun. But there’s a reason this idea has rarely been discussed in the past 20 years: Any minor misstep by NASA—which, uh, never makes mistakes—could send the comet or asteroid hurtling into our planet. In a thorough analysis of the prospect, The Conversation suggests that it would be easier to colonize Mars.
Or we could just stop burning fossil fuels.