Energy

ACTUAL PAPER: How Would Aliens Solve Global Warming?

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

How would alien civilizations solve a problem like global warming? Sounds like a science fiction novel, but a group of researchers are actually taking the question seriously.

Adam Frank, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, was the lead author of a study trying to model the “possible histories of alien planets, the civilizations they grow, and the climate change that follows.”

Frank’s study was published in the journal Astrobiology in early May, but Frank wrote about his work for The Atlantic. “We’re interested in how exo-civilizations develop on their planets,” Frank wrote Wednesday.

“Given that more than 10 billion trillion planets likely exist in the cosmos, unless nature is perversely biased against civilizations like ours, we’re not the first one to appear,” he wrote. “That means each exo-civilization that evolved from its planet’s biosphere had a history: a story of emergence, rising capacities, and then maybe a slow fade or rapid collapse.”

Obviously, there’s no known ancient alien civilization for Frank to study, so he and his co-authors just made them up. Frank’s study analyzed how made up civilizations might contend with global warming and ecological collapse. (RELATED: California, Texas Face Rolling Blackouts If Summer Heat Stresses The Grid)

“And just as most species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct, so too most civilizations that emerged (if they emerged) may have long since ended. So we’re exploring what may have happened to others to gain insights into what might happen to us,” Frank wrote.

This isn’t Frank’s first foray into questions about ancient extraterrestrial civilizations. Frank wrote another op-ed in The Atlantic in April on a paper he co-authored with Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

That’s right, NASA’s top climate scientist co-authored a paper on advanced civilizations that could have existed millions of years before humanity on Earth.

“Gavin and I don’t believe the Earth once hosted a 50-million-year-old Paleocene civilization,” Frank wrote in The Atlantic in April. “But by asking if we could ‘see’ truly ancient industrial civilizations, we were forced to ask about the generic kinds of impacts any civilization might have on a planet. That’s exactly what the astrobiological perspective on climate change is all about.”

“By asking about civilizations lost in deep time, we’re also asking about the possibility for universal rules guiding the evolution of all biospheres in all their creative potential, including the emergence of civilizations,” he wrote. “Even without pickup-driving Paleocenians, we’re only now learning to see how rich that potential might be.”

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