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Scenario: Humans need to create a pull factor for people to move to and establish cities and economies in less comfortable and densely inhabited places, because they're a bit full already. The humans of this time have the magical gift of being able to collaborate on a global level.

Using the science we know today, what could they do to make the air temperature more uniform across the globe, without significantly changing the global average temperature? And what effects would that have on other weather patterns or the appearance of the environment?

I'd prefer an approach that alters the atmosphere, but all ideas are welcome.

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  • $\begingroup$ What sort of tech level are they? Space-faring would help a lot. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ the science is at the level we have today, but the extent to which it is used can be higher $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ The surface temperature of Venus is much more uniform than Earth's. Unfortunately it is also lethally high. Adding greenhouse gasses while putting big mirrors between the earth & the sun to keep the overall temperature reasonable might help. There would still be the problem that warming the poles will flood a lot of the most valuable land. Can anyone think of something that would do less harm than good? $\endgroup$
    – Jim Baerg
    Mar 10, 2020 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ Reforestation is'nt very striking but it would go a big way to make more uniform earth is temperature. $\endgroup$
    – jogarcia
    Mar 10, 2020 at 1:06
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    $\begingroup$ Grind it to gravel, distribute it into a ring around the sun. That'll nicely thermalise the whole lot, removing that pesky surface-core temperature difference that no-one else seems to have accounted for. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 10:56

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Your stated goal is to homogenize the air temperature of the planet, but your underlying goal is to make more habitable land. The scale of your stated goal is well beyond the limits of modern science even when assisted by magical planet-wide cooperation. But your underlying goal is well within our reach...

  • floating cities on the surfaces of our tropical oceans
  • submerged cities in the shallows of those tropical oceans
  • arcologies/mega-towers... entire cities in a single vertical structure
  • permanent artificial islands
  • green-ify our deserts through irrigation and permaculture

Beyond those solutions, we can also utilize our habitable terrain better by decentralizing the power and utility services which we currently congregate about. Vast expanses of land go underutilized because it is physically or economically impossible to get power and water out to those locations. Those are solvable problems which would open up a great deal of new territory for human living space.

So rather than cooking the planet to a nice even temperature, I recommend we get better at using the warm parts that are actually here.

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    $\begingroup$ About those mega-towers... Are you sure you don't want to slip in a reference to arcologies? I know that it may throw a wrench in your "beyond the limits of modern science" and push the things in the "beyond the limits of modern technologies", but even so... $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 6:22
  • $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi, I agree that "arcologies" is a better term than my "mega-towers" label. Replacing it. As for the wrench, my answers are never flawless. Just starting points towards a completer solution. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ Yeap, I'm not immune either. I just realized that there may be a thing with arcologies still pertaining to "beyond current science" - the energy levels required to support one without impact on the surrounding env. I'm thinking fusion, which is still searching for materials resistant to energetic neuron radiation or neutron-less fusion. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ Conservative living still require those 8700kJ/day of food intake per each belly. At a conversion efficiency of well under 10% in photosynthesis and limited natural light areas, I think you will find hydroponics will compete with water pumping. Especially if water get recycled every 10 floors or so. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ People used to looks deserts as bad place, but two things about: a) they are a powerful source of aerosols able to make clouds and then rain worldwide. nasa.gov/content/goddard/… and b) they raise the total albedo of planet reflecting tons of radiation back to space. Counter the desertification is a nice thing. Build others biomes in desert places can bring unexpected consequences. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 20:22
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I think the cornerstone would be hydraulic works

We have lots of fun places to live, but many of them are busy growing crops...or should be.

We also let gigatons of water flow uselessly out to the sea, e.g. Out the Columbia (200,000 cubic feet per second), Mississippi (600,000 CFS) and St. Lawrence (300,000 CFS). Meanwhile, some places have way too much water at times, like Houston.

You build mega-canals to take that wasted water to arid areas. You also include massive reservoirs in suitable places. Large reservoirs are not too hard if you berm (or use natural terrain) to impound very large areas.

If you have canal systems capable of moving 600,000 CFS from the lower Mississippi River to the arid southwest, whilst simultaneously supporting navigation and recreation. These are some big canals. You build them so (at cost of stopping navigation) they can super-flow to triple capacity, e.g. 1.8 million CFS for all of them, and you do that for flood control reasons.

Normally, the southwest irrigates off the daily flow. However there are huge reservoirs, which you keep largely empty for flood-control reasons. When you have a storm, you do several things at once. First, you stop drawing from the Mississippi normally, and let it flow to the sea. You then drain down all the Mississippi valley and southeast Texas reservoirs, so they have room to absorb storm surges. Then, as the storm hits, the canal and now-empty regional reservoirs work together to draw water away.

Consider Hurricane Harvey. It dropped 9 trillion gallons (1.2 trillion cubic feet; 28 million acre-feet). Well, that's the capacity of Lake Mead alone. Since the mega-canals can supply daily needs, there's no longer the need to store years' worth of water, so that existing capacity can be used for flood control.

Oh yeah. Thermal management.

The water enables massive growth of flora. The flora has the cooling effect in the normal way it does that. Not least, all 600,000 CFS of Mississippi water ends up being evaporated (partly via the flora) in the Southwest.

Consider the evaporative cooling effect of 600,000 CFS. Boiling one cubic foot of water takes 70 million joules. So that flow rate removes 42 terajoules/second of solar heat. Assuming 600W of solarization per square metre half the time, that nullifies all solar heat for 138,000 square kilometers. Or about half the size of Arizona.

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    $\begingroup$ We also let gigatons of water flow uselessly those water flows support (or should support) a higher biodiversity, making the ecology more robust. You're producing death, red tides and harmful blooms over larger areas than you use. Until you really learn to use them, better take your hands from those water flows. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ THAT causes all that stuff you're talking about. Oh, come on. What does Lake Oroville has to do with the dead zones in Seattle, along the US East coast, Europe and South China Sea? $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi "nature knows better" are you kidding me? Look at the Oroville complex. They keep river release at a happy 1500-10,000 CFS continuously, all year. Happy fishes, commerce, recreation, no bank cutting. You wanna talk about "not knowing what you're doing"? What would you say about some idiot who runs it 30,000 CFS then 5,000, saturates then collapses the river banks, then dribbles it to 300 CFS for a month and genocides the salmon? Coz nature does that. Nature is a moron. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 8:40
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    $\begingroup$ Mate, you are citing one example of 'yeah, we're keeping some fish in one river happy', I provided hundreds of cases in which irrigation, intensive use of fertilizers and runoffs kill the water life in areas at least two orders of magnitude higher than your river. I don't know how you can deduce that, on average, humans know better than the nature from a single 'happy' example. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 8:50
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    $\begingroup$ We also let gigatons of water flow uselessly out to the sea, e.g... Mississippi (600,000 CFS) put this into your pipe and tell me what you think: moron nature or moron humans? Louisiana loses a football field’s worth of land every hour and a half due to flood control levies - simply put, the water flow is regulated and no longer deposits the sediments were they use to go, so the old soil gets washed away. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2020 at 10:37
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This is probably considered near future, though I believe it could be done currently. It will just be very expensive.

Putting shades and mirrors in space will let you reduce the total incoming energy from the sun while also allowing you to warm up any cold spots.

Averaging out the temperature will melt the poles, however. So shutting down the whole ocean conveyor thing could be a problem if you don't do it very slowly.

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I m not sure if warm the cold regions of planet and cool the hot regions will bring any real benefits. Looks like mess a lot with all climate system of Earth and ruin still more the biosphere.

However, well, allow more absortion in the poles and increase the albedo in tropical zone will result it.

First melt all ice in the poles. Take down all that ice. Yes! This will warm the planet entirely at once and definity will raise the oceans several meters, but more water coverage will make more uniform temperatures.

After it, water vapour will raise albedo and reflect more from sun radiation back to the space, cooling all system.

Probably will need some kind of mirrors in orbit to constantly keep the poles in artifitial high temperatures and some cloud seeder in equator. Or yet, still more radical, total desertification of all lands between the tropics (23° N and 23° S).

Bizarre? Yes, but if the goal is more uniform temperatures, will work.

Now if real goal is make Earth a good place to still more people live:

  1. Improve renowable power generation. Fusion nuclear reaction power is like the Holy Graal, in the horizon, but not yet reachable. Solar and wind power are good and going cheaper, stil+l yet hurted with the duck effect. Perhaps with better power transmission lines the demand can harmonize with supply globaly. Geothermal would be a good tip too, in the Foundation series Isaac Asimov made whole Trantor works with this one.

  2. Decrease the demand to animal products. Decrease waste of food in industry and logistic chain. Decrease the total of general waste of everybody.

  3. Increase sanitary conditions and increase educational levels. Educated persons will harm less the balance of ecossystems where they live.

  4. Some people answer about archologies. Its a very complicate concept but there in something easy and feasible right now: estimulate urban agriculture and self production, to both food and power.

  5. Build an industry will looks at trash as source of resources. Its dumb how actually we mine some specific resource, make something with it, use and after we discard it, bury, burn or throw in waters. Going further in this point we could even no look to overconsuption as bad thing, due there would no waste after all.

Looks cheaper and effective to Earth sustain still more humans and even with less harm to environment, also would cool the planet at all to some pre-industrial level.

Now, if the goal is make Earth looks like Trantor or Coruscant with estimated 40 billion to 1 trillion inhabitants, will need underground food production, ignore totally the environment and probably build domes everywhere to artifitial climate.

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Millions of km of highway paved with room temperature superconductor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room-temperature_superconductor

Superconductors have the interesting property they have the same temperature over their entire volume. This is because any thermal energy can transfer to any other part without resistance.

So you have a huge network of highways. And at the equator you extend them into the ocean. And at the poles as well. Possibly you need to put up big heat-exchanging panels that will equalize the air temperature with the road surfaces. And the same under the oceans to give lots of surface area to gain heat near the equator and dump it out near the poles.

Heat will be transferred from the equator to the poles. It will transfer faster when there is a larger temperature difference.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, but not even superconductors have infinite capacity to transport heat and the heat transport speed is still finite. If you subject such a superconductor to a temperature differential on it ends, two things may happen: either the superconductor can stay in this state without being at the same temperature (so the advantage may be a simpler heat transfer, but other long-distance heat pumps may be more efficient) or the temperature homogeneity is a requirement for superconductive state and a temperature differential will drive it out from superconductivity. $\endgroup$ Mar 11, 2020 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ There is a limit to the heat difference a superconductor can maintain. It's primarily a heat-flux limit. It's huge, just as the current flow is huge. And it operates basically at a large fraction of the speed of light. $\endgroup$
    – puppetsock
    Mar 11, 2020 at 13:34
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Caves of Steel

Humans would congregate in fewer locations, and build huge mega-cities enclosed in domes. The construction would be modular and efficient, and everybody has the same space, since the construction goes up and up and up as we add people. Work and food is plentiful. You and your family will be safe and secure in a world of opportunity maintained at uniform climate free from pollution and disease.

This is a place to live that is a vast improvement for better than 90% of the human population today. They’d flock to the domes in the greatest migration since ever.

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