Lawmaker Suggests Changing Earth's Orbit

Science

Newser 10 June, 2021 - 07:05am 19 views

(Newser) – A Republican lawmaker from Texas is curious to know whether we could alter our planet's orbit to address climate change. Rep. Louie Gohmert was attending a House Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday when he noted that a past NASA director had told him the orbits of the Earth and moon change slightly, per the Hill. He then asked Jennifer Eberlien, associate deputy chief of the National Forest Service, "Is there anything that the National Forest Service or [Bureau of Land Management] can do to change the course of the moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate." Eberlien paused before replying, "I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert." "Well, if you figure out a way that you in the Forest Service can make that change, I'd like to know," Gohmert responded.

The Hill notes it’s unclear if Gohmert was kidding. But he was "deadpan through the exchange," per the Dallas Morning News. Earth's orbit does in fact vary in shape from almost a perfect circle to slightly elliptical in 100,000-year cycles. This, together with slight changes in the angle at which Earth tilts on its axis, influences Earth's climate over the long-term. But neither the Earth's nor the moon's orbit is tied to global warming. Indeed, "Earth's current orbital positions … predict our planet should be cooling, not warming," according to NASA. Moriba Jah, an astrodynamics expert at the University of Texas at Austin, says Gohmert's suggestion is "as feasible as making the sun rise in the west," per the Morning News. (Read more Louie Gohmert stories.)

Read full article at Newser

Rep. Gohmert asks whether federal agencies can fix climate change by altering orbit of the Earth and moon

Yahoo News 10 June, 2021 - 08:40pm

Gohmert, R-Texas, posed that highly speculative theory in the form of a question to Jennifer Eberlien, associate deputy chief of the National Forest System. 

“I understand, from what’s been testified to the Forest Service and the BLM [Bureau of Land Management], you want very much to work on the issue of climate change,” Gohmert told Eberlien. “I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they’ve found that the moon’s orbit is changing slightly, and so is the Earth’s orbit around the sun. We know there’s been significant solar flare activities, and so, 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? Obviously that would have profound effects on our climate.”

As video clips of the exchange began circulating, Gohmert lashed out at critics who mocked the idea that altering our planet’s orbit was a viable or wise solution to climate change. Specifically, he took issue with those he said had conflated the Bureau of Land Management and Black Lives Matter, which share the same initials. 

While NASA has pointed to research conducted by Serbian scientist Milutin Milankovitch suggesting that “changes in Earth’s position relative to the sun are a strong driver of Earth’s long-term climate, and are responsible for triggering the beginning and end of glaciation periods (Ice Ages),” the agency makes no mention of the prospect of humankind devising a way to change the orbit of either the Earth or the moon. At present, no government agency on the planet has put forth a plan to address climate change in this fashion. 

Long a climate change denier, Gohmert in 2015 mocked Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore over their advocacy to address global warming, saying that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was a good thing because it meant “we’ll have more plants.”

In 2016 Gohmert was interviewed by Steve Bannon on Breitbart News radio on whether climate change should be a top priority for lawmakers. 

“It seems like when you hear somebody say over and over again that climate change is our biggest problem, they don’t know that climate has been changing a lot worse all over the millennia of mankind,” Gohmert said. 

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Rep. Gohmert’s question about the Forest Service changing Earth’s orbit was dumb, but not for the reason you think

The Washington Post 10 June, 2021 - 08:40pm

“I understand from what’s been testified to the Forest Service and the BLM” — referring to the Bureau of Land Management — “you want very much to work on the issue of climate change,” Gohmert said.

“I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they have found that the moon’s orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth’s orbit around the sun,” he continued. “And we know there’s been significant solar flare activity. And so 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? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate.”

It took Eberlien a moment to reply.

“I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert,” she said with a chuckle.

“Yeah, well, if you figure out a way that you in the Forest Service can make that change,” Gohmert replied, “I’d like to know.”

When it’s written out, as above, this appears to be a member of Congress earnestly asking a person in charge of the nation’s forests whether her agency could alter how the Earth rotates around the sun. It’s an obviously ludicrous idea for several reasons. One: It’s not clear how any agency might change the Earth’s orbit, much less one whose heaviest equipment includes big chain saws. Two: There’s an obvious risk posed by shifting how the Earth rotates around the sun. I, for one, would prefer not to cause that orbit to decay to the extent that our planet is pulled directly into the star. No wonder Eberlien could only marvel.

It’s also absolutely fair to assume that Gohmert might actually have thought this is something that could happen. Gohmert has earned a reputation for his championing of bizarre theories, from casting the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 as “people without any firearms coming into a building,” to presenting as serious a complicated web of conspiratorial interactions, to publicly promoting the false and unfounded claim that the U.S. military seized a server with presidential votes in Europe after the 2020 election.

There is good reason, then, to think that perhaps Gohmert actually wanted to know whether the Forest Service had a tool in its arsenal to move the moon around. In reality, though, Gohmert was embracing a different goofy theory.

Gohmert was being ironic. He wasn’t actually suggesting that the Earth’s orbit be shifted but, instead, suggesting that, since climate change is a function of those orbits and solar flares, altering the orbit would be what those agencies need to do to combat climate change.

He wasn’t asking a dumb question. He was trying to suggest that it was the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service that was being dumb by thinking they could affect climate change in some way short of figuring out how to shift the moon around in the sky. And that’s how Gohmert was wrong.

I don’t know what Gohmert was told or thinks he was told by a former NASA administrator (presumably Jim Bridenstine) about Earth’s orbit and climate change. But I do know what NASA says about it publicly.

“In the last few months, a number of questions have come in asking if NASA has attributed Earth’s recent warming to changes in how Earth moves through space around the Sun: a series of orbital motions known as Milankovitch cycles,” NASA’s website reads. Those cycles “cannot account for the current period of rapid warming Earth has experienced since the pre-Industrial period (the period between 1850 and 1900), and particularly since the mid-20th Century,” the NASA blog goes on to say. “Scientists are confident Earth’s recent warming is primarily due to human activities — specifically, the direct input of carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere from burning fossil fuels.”

In fact, it concludes, “if there were no human influences on climate, scientists say Earth’s current orbital positions within the Milankovitch cycles predict our planet should be cooling, not warming, continuing a long-term cooling trend that began 6,000 years ago.”

Oh, in another article, NASA debunks the idea that solar flares are a cause of global warming.

This probably doesn’t surprise you because you are probably not a politician who represents a state whose economy is heavily dependent on the fossil fuels that contribute most heavily to that carbon dioxide output. That is, you are probably not actively seeking out other explanations for climate change that do not hinge on concern about how much oil and gas we’re burning. You are probably not more likely to embrace the idea that it’s about a wobbly moon, just as you didn’t try to rationalize your views of the 2020 presidential results by taking as true a tweet about a military operation in Germany.

When Gohmert’s question finally trickled out onto social media, the response was what you would expect: He thinks that the Forest Service can move the Earth?! Again, that’s not really what Gohmert was doing. But, amazingly, Gohmert himself appears not to understand that this is the reason people think his comments were so bizarre. Instead he seems to believe that people think he was saying that BLM — that is, the Black Lives Matter movement — should change our planet’s trajectory.

The question itself, Gohmert saw no problem with.

Fact check: Gohmert's attempts to connect moon orbits and solar flares to climate change

CNN 10 June, 2021 - 08:40pm

Updated 11:06 PM ET, Wed June 9, 2021

Lunar New Deal: GOP Rep. Gohmert suggests altering moon's orbit to combat climate change

NBC News 10 June, 2021 - 08:40pm

Gohmert made the comments Tuesday during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on four bills as he was questioning Jennifer Eberlien, an associate deputy chief of the Forest Service.

"I understand, from what's been testified to the Forest Service and the BLM, you want very much to work on the issue of climate change," Gohmert said, referring to the Bureau of Land Management.

"I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they've found that the moon's orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth's orbit around the sun. We know there's been significant solar flare activity," he said. "And so, 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? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate."

Eberlien responded, smiling, "I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert."

"If you figure out there's a way in the Forest Service you could make that change, I'd like to know," Gohmert said.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., offered his own solution to Gohmert on Twitter on Wednesday, suggesting that Marvel Comics' character Captain Marvel could handle the job.

"She can alter planetary orbits with her superpowers. I'm going to work on a bipartisan resolution asking for her help," Lieu tweeted.

As for the "immediate past director of NASA" Gohmert referred to in his remarks, that would probably be Jim Bridenstine, a former member of Congress from Oklahoma who had been a climate change skeptic, who argued years ago that humans aren't responsible for global warming.

"Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with sun output and ocean cycles," he said in remarks on the House floor in 2013.

He said that position had evolved by 2017, when then-President Donald Trump nominated him to be NASA's administrator. Bridenstine told The Washington Post that after having heard from experts and reading up on the topic, "I came to the conclusion myself that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that we've put a lot of it into the atmosphere and therefore we have contributed to the global warming that we've seen."

"And we've done it in really significant ways," he said.

Bridenstine could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Gohmert, an outspoken opponent of Democrats' plans to combat climate change, has said he does not believe it is a manmade problem.

"We can't do anything substantive about the climate change right now, when the moon's orbit is apparently changing some, the Earth's orbit is changing some, according to NASA," he told Fox Business Network last month.

A spokesperson for NASA did not return a call for comment. The agency has long pointed to human-made carbon dioxide emissions as the cause of current global warming.

"Earth's climate has changed throughout history," the agency's website says.

"Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth's orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives," the site says, but "the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over millennia."

GENE SIMMONS Blasts 'Moron' Politician For Asking Forest Service To Alter Moon's Orbit To Combat Climate Change

BLABBERMOUTH.NET 10 June, 2021 - 08:40pm

KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons has blasted a Texas politician for drawing a connection between the moon and Earth's orbit and solar flares to climate change.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, asked a representative from the U.S. Forest Service if it was possible to alter the orbit of the moon or the Earth as a way of combating climate change.

During a live-streamed national parks, forests and public lands subcommittee meeting of the National Resources Committee, Gohmert addressed Jennifer Eberlein, the associate deputy chief for the National Forest System. He said: "I understand from what's been testified to, the Forest Service and the (Bureau of Land Management), you want very much to work on the issue of climate change." He went on to say that he understood NASA's data shows the Earth's and the moon's orbits are "changing slightly." "And so, 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 asked. "Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate."

Eberlein paused before responding, "I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert."

"Yeah? Well, if you figure out a way that you in the Forest Service can make that change, I'd like to know," Gohmert said.

Earlier today, Simmons shared a Yahoo! News article about Gohmert's comments, and he included the following message: "Please pardon my language. What an Effin Moron…Texas Republican. Gohmert suggests altering moon's orbit to combat climate change".

Gohmert, an outspoken opponent of Democrats' plans to combat climate change, responded to the backlash on Twitter by pointing out that Tuesday's hearing "was about the BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT & climate change."

In the past, Gohmert has repeatedly said he does not believe climate change is a manmade problem.

ORBITS: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) asks whether the Forest Service or the BLM can alter the orbit of the moon or the Earth in order to fight climate change during a House Natural Resources hearing pic.twitter.com/yYiOyi2cMZ

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Texas Rep. asks whether or not the earth and moon's orbit could be altered to fix climate change

Daily Mail 10 June, 2021 - 08:40pm

By Matt Mcnulty For Dailymail.Com

Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert's asked during a hearing of a House committee whether the federal government could change the orbits of the moon or earth to deal with climate change - raising some eyebrows among experts.   

Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, was on a video call with associate deputy chief of the National Forest Service Jennifer Eberlien when he asked whether or not federal agencies such as the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management could alter the earth and moon's orbit to deal with climate change crisis. 

'I understand, from what's been testified to the Forest Service and the BLM [Bureau of Land Management], you want very much to work on the issue of climate change,' Gohmert told Eberlien in a viral video clip of the hearing tweeted by Forbes.

'I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they've found that the moon's orbit is changing slightly, and so is the Earth's orbit around the sun. 

National Forest Service deputy chief Jennifer Eberlien was diplomatic in her response to Gohmert's question. 'I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert' she said

Gohmert asked National Forest System associate deputy chief Jennifer Eberlien if federal agencies can fix climate crisis by changing the earth and moon's orbit

There are a few ways humans could potentially control planetary orbit. 

A Dyson Sphere is an unbelievably massive (and purely theoretical) sphere that could harness the sun's energy and possibly control the solar system motion in the galaxy.

If we can somehow manipulate Kepler's 3 laws of planetary orbital motion, we can control orbit. 

Still, that's a big if, experts say. 

A simpler plan is shunting large asteroids into close encounters with planet to decrease kinetic energy.

However, all of these options could take centuries or millennia to complete, and would require huge amounts of energy, according to Science Focus.

According to Dr. Dr Alastair Gunn, an astronomer at the University of Manchester in the UK quoted by the site: Moving Mars, for example, to an orbit closer to the Sun would require decreasing its kinetic energy enormously – perhaps by shunting large asteroids into close encounters with it. 

'If the aim is to aid in the terraforming of Mars, there would be far cheaper, quicker and more effective ways to do it,' he said.

'We know there's been significant solar flare activities, and so, 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? Obviously that would have profound effects on our climate.' 

'I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert,' Eberlien replied.

She didn't answer in specifics whether there could be any validity to the idea - which many online found outlandish, while others came to the congressman's defense, saying he was obviously being sarcastic. 

As Gohmert's query spread on social media, some lashed out at the Texas representative as they debated whether his question was serious or sarcastic during his viral exchange with Eberlien.

'So let's be clear, you still think the Bureau of Land Management can alter the orbit of the earth or the moon?' tweeted Tom Coates. 

'I'm pretty certain we are all laughing at the fact that you asked an administrator, of a land use agency, if they could shift the orbit of the moon,' another commenter tweeted.

'He's totally serious about the question!' a third commenter tweeted. 

'I'm surprised she didn't burst out laughing. It's like the demure 'no' about curing C19 with lights and injecting disinfectant. 

'Both should have been met with hearty guffaws. Texas, you get the ignorance you vote for with.'

Not all commenters were negative, however, with many coming to the Texas Republican's defense.

'It was sarcasm ….. talk about embarrassing' tweeted one commenter. 

'It's obvious sarcasm he is employing, not belief that the anyone can alter orbits. Forbes could have focused on the real issue: 'Gohmert implies false theory that earth's changing orbit is enough to explain climate change.' But they wouldn't get many clicks or retweets with that,' James Wells tweeted in defense of the Texas Republican.

'It's a question of jurisdiction. Agencies of the USA do not have authority to change the Earth's orbit. Gohmert seems to be calling for a global governmental authority, which I did not expect from him,' Bill Karwin noted.  

Gohmert asked National Forest System associate deputy chief Jennifer Eberlien if federal agencies can fix climate crisis by changing the earth and moon's orbit

Gohmert took particular exception to those who he believed confused the Bureau of Land Management for Black Lives Matter, both of which use 'BLM' as an acronym.

'He wants Black Lives Matter to change the Earth's orbit?????? Am I missing something?' one person tweeted. 

'I can't be the only one who wondered why Loonie Louie would entrust this mission to Black Lives Matter,' another commenter wrote, much to Gohmert's ire.

'Exceedingly devious how you hid the context with an ellipses in your tweet, Gohmert' replied to a tweet by former Studio 360 host and author Kurt Anderson. 'The hearing was about the BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT & climate change. BLM stands for the BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT. #FakeNews' he tweeted amidst the online debate of his climate change query.

Video of the exchange garnered nearly 9k likes, 3,760 retweets and 10.3k quote tweets as of Thursday. 

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Republican lawmaker suggests altering orbit of Moon

Yahoo News Canada 10 June, 2021 - 08:40pm

Indeed, variations in the celestial mechanics of the Moon's orbit had been known by the ancient Greeks. Astronomers today refer to these variations as an axial precession.

But, Gohmert, in a hearing with an official of the National Forest System -- a nook of the U.S. federal government which, among other things, oversees the nation's timber supply, its management of wildfires, and the planting of undergrowth most beneficial to wildlife -- expressed concern about the effects of climate change and asked whether the forest service bureaucracy might do something to reverse those effects by altering the orbit of the Moon.

"Is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM (the Bureau of Land Management) can do to change the course of the Moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the Sun? he asked, noting that an orbital adjustment would have a profound effect of the climate.

Jennifer Eberlien, an associate deputy chief of the National Forest System, nonplussed at a question widely outside of her usual running lane, was at her diplomatic best.

"I would have to follow-up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert," she replied.

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Here's what would actually happen if we changed the Moon's orbit

Inverse 10 June, 2021 - 08:40pm

A congressman asked and we answered.

Sure, it sounds like a barroom hypothetical pitched after three Long Island ice teas or something a child would ask, but it’s a real question, posed by Republican U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas to National Forest System associate deputy chief Jennifer Eberlein in a House Natural Resources Committee meeting this week.

Spoiler alert: It’s not a great idea. Because we love a challenge, Inverse asked actual scientists:

Their answers ranged from no to why would you ever do that to this is what would happen, but you’re not going to like it.

If you would prefer to listen, here you go:

Inverse asked Fred Adams, a University of Michigan physics professor, for his take. Adams is a co-author of a 2001 paper in Astrophysics and Space Science about moving the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, and whether or not that could help humanity last longer.

The paper involves a complicated N-body problem involving using large asteroids and the gravitational influence of Jupiter and Saturn to nudge Earth into a new orbit where it can get the amount of sunlight it needs over huge timescales. It’s a thought experiment put to paper.

The math works, but the “changing the climate in the time we need” part doesn’t.

“The work that we did... plays out on time scales of billions of years, whereas the climate change we are facing now plays out in tens of years,” Adams explains. “Compare ‘10’ with ‘1,000,000,000.’”

My take is that: The voter suppression activity going on in Texas is a far bigger and more important story than anything Louie Gohmert has to say about climate change,” Adams says.

So that’s not going to work.

Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at North Carolina State University, echoes similar sentiments.

“The short answer is you can pretty much do anything you want,” Byrne tells Inverse. “The only limit is energy, which functionally means money, and there is probably not enough money ever produced by humankind to produce the kind of energy required to move the Moon by any meaningful amount.”

“But you could do it, in the way that I could probably be a bodybuilder,” he adds. “But am I going to be? No.” (Don’t give up on your dreams so easily!)

Byrne guides us through a few scenarios that could nudge the Moon specifically. You could, for example, smash large things into it. We could also take advantage of flybys by large objects like asteroids, and use those as a kind of barge pole to nudge the Moon. Last but not least, we could (emphasis on could) strap rocket engines on it.

But, even if we went through with any of these hypotheticals, Byrne says the gravitational interplay between Earth and the Moon would make it very difficult to see any perceptible results. We could also just accidentally destroy the Moon if we threw stuff at it. (And if you’ve read Seveneves, you know that’s a bad thing.) Moving the Moon could also affect seismic activity on Earth for the worse if it was moved closer.

OK, so we should probably not do these things. But, what if we did...

Matteo Ceriotti, a University of Glasgow space systems engineering lecturer, has run the math on it a few times. He even wrote about it in 2019. And he’s not so sure the climate effects would be pronounced.

First, he looks at tides, one of the most pronounced interactions between Earth and the Moon.

“Tides do not have a direct effect on climate, but they do affect animal life which relies on tides, and in the very long term, this may affect the climate to some extent,” Ceriotti tells Inverse.

Meanwhile, moving the Moon away from Earth could change its orbital period and, in turn, seasons. “However,” Ceriotti says, “unless the Moon is moved away considerably from its current orbit, these effects can only be perceived over thousands of years.”

So there you have it: Could we do it? Yes. The physics back it up. Could we really do it? No, both from an energy and timescale perspective. Should we do it? Also no, from an unintended consequences perspective.

“I would say that if we had the energy, resources, and technology to change the Moon’s orbit enough to cause a change in the Earth climate, we should probably re-think and invest a similar amount of energy and resources to tackle the problem on Earth,” Ceriotti says.

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