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Venus: Too hot, too much atmosphere

Venus may be the future of Earth and may also hold the answers to global warming.

Earth’s atmosphere is 78 percent nitrogen, 21% oxygen, (O₂,) and 1% other gases including carbon dioxide (CO₂) and water vapor. Even though CO₂ is considered a trace gas in our atmosphere it is a major player in the absorption of energy from the Sun. Nitrogen and oxygen are ‘invisible’ to the Sun’s radiation, so the energy from the Sun passes through the two gases without being absorbed.

The atmosphere of Venus 96% CO₂ and 3.5% nitrogen, with 0.5% other gases, including water vapor. Venus’ atmosphere is also extremely dense. The pressure at the surface of Venus is the same as the pressure at 1,000 meters (3,000 ft.) under the surface of Earth’s ocean.

Venus is also hot. The CO₂ absorbing the Sun’s energy retains the heat in a runaway greenhouse effect that keeps the temperature at 462 °C (864 °F,) both day and night.

The interesting, and terrifying fact is that the carbon found on Earth is roughly equal to the carbon found on Venus. The difference is that Earth stores its carbon in the ocean, and in calcite deposits that consists of dead marine life that settled in the bottom of an ocean and became a sedimentary rock formation.

There is also a nitrogen problem. Even though nitrogen makes up 3.5% of Venus’ atmosphere, it is four times the amount of nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere.

Venus could be Earth Like if:

  • Almost all of the atmospheric carbon and three-quarters of the nitrogen could be transformed into solid carbon and solid nitrogen.
  • Some of the oxygen from the CO₂ could be liberated for the atmosphere.
  • The rest of the oxygen could be liberated to combine with hydrogen in the upper atmosphere to create water.
  • The Sun’s energy could be reduced (blocked) to allow Venus to cool.
  • Venus’ rotation could be sped up and a slight tilt in the axis to match Earth’s rotation and axis.

Numbers 4 and 5 are beyond our current technology, however, solving the 1 through 3 issues are a matter of finding or creating an organism that could float in venus’ upper atmosphere and convert CO₂ to O₂. This could help scientists find a way to remove the excess carbon from Earth’s atmosphere and prevent global warming from becoming a runaway greenhouse effect on our planet.

It should be noted that Earth’s temperature is a delicate balance between incoming and outgoing energy. We don’t know at what point a runaway greenhouse effect kicks in and destroys the energy balance that maintains a near constant temperature on Earth; however, there is a point of no return where evaporating water vapor and CO₂ will absorb more energy from the Sun than what is radiated back into space. If we reach that point, Earth will become another Venus and the human race will cease to exist.