Space Junk

From GPS to Dish TV, Satellites are used in everyday life.

Space junk is a growing concern in the aerospace industry, but this environmental challenge is not as widely publicized as the future effects would warrant it to be. In 2013, NASA claimed they were tracking more than 500,000 pieces of space junk orbiting our planet, and can only track objects down to the size of a couple centimeters across. Debris ranges from the size of paint flecks only fractions of a millimeter wide to large spent rocket bodies that orbit uncontrollably around the Earth.

This junk is traveling at enormous speeds of approximately 17,500 miles per hour! That’s fast! At these speeds even small pieces such paint flecks or bolts can do a considerable amount of damage.

Devin Saunders, Chief Writer Covering Space, Engineering & National Security

Why is this such a problem? While there are many problems, Kessler Syndrome is a massive one. Basically, even a small piece of debris because of its high speed could incapacitate a satellite during a collision. Since collisions cause increasingly more debris, exponential growth occurs until the orbital altitude is unusable. This would make it impossible to put satellites into debris-filled orbits and it  is dangerous to attempt to launch satellites into higher orbits.

While the Department of Defense and other space agencies are advancing how to track debris, there is still no feasible way to remove the junk from Earth’s orbit. The only option is waiting for them to fall back into the atmosphere, but this takes months for even large pieces of debris in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and can be on the order of centuries for objects in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO).

This means that every satellite, rocket, or space shuttle part we send into Space must be carefully planned. Not just by the United States, but also among all governments.

Big Oil & Renewables

‘Big Oil’ invests more in renewable energies than any other industry.

Mistakenly, too many people listen to CNN or Fox News when it comes to the environment. Instead they should be reading articles directly from the sources in question. If a citizen wants to know what the unemployment rate is, they should not listen to the ‘ra ra’ nature of sensationalized media. Instead they should Google “unemployment rate bureau of labor statistics” and click on the link from the Department of Labor.

Similarly, for climate change they should read reputable sources from NASA to the reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Despite the loads of credible news sources that are readily available online, society has become increasingly partisan and closed off to facts.

To the Republicans, there is a stereotype that most Democrats are '“hippies” or “tree huggers”. To the Democrats, there is a stereotype that most Republicans are “capitalist pigs” or “climate change deniers”. Thankfully, the stereotypes are wrong.

Sixty-six percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Independents and 90 percent of Democrats said they believed in human-caused climate change and the utility of reducing greenhouse gases.

Shelly Leachman @ the University of California, Santa Barbara

Generally, the main disagreements are based upon blind ideological loyalty and not policy. Policy differs only slightly between the Republicans and Democrats. Republicans favor “revenue-neutral carbon taxes” while Democrats favor “cap-and-trade” policy.

Revenue-neutral carbon taxes are two-fold. Revenue-neutral means that every dollar increased with a carbon tax, there is another dollar decreased in some other aspect of government. These types of proposals take into account the negative external consequences of pollution, but offset government in another way. British Columbia in Canada was the first North American country to implement a measure.

Cap-and-trade policy is another good method of holding both consumers, firms, and government accountable. Firstly, there is a cap on the amount of greenhouse gases that can be admitted. As time progresses, the cap becomes more strict which is aligned with the various climate change reports that argue we must be carbon negative in the future. Secondly, companies have the ability to buy and sell 'carbon allowances’ like any other type of market, but the higher prices incentive firms to creatively lower carbon emission.

The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), which brings together 13 of the world’s top oil and gas companies, pledged earlier this year to slash emissions of a potent greenhouse gas by a fifth by 2025.

Ron Bousso from Reuters

Despite increasing pressure from governments, many are worried these multinational companies are duplicitous in blocking legislation that could help the environment. According to Jeanne Martin of campaign group ShareAction, she criticized the oil industry for “blocking climate initiatives and regulations, and [investments] in fossil fuel projects that have no place in a well-below 2 degrees Celsius world.

She could absolutely be right. However, the greatest thrust that drives companies is profit. Despite the variable renewable energy profit margins, they climbed as high as 10.21% in September 2018.

Consumers and firms must realign how they buy to change corporate culture.