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We fear the Prince has been grievously ill-informed

Summary:
It is never The Prince who is wrong but the advisors. So we fear it is here:In his interview about climate change, ahead of his inaugural Earthshot Prize awards, the duke said: 'We need some of the world's greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live.'This about Bezos boldly firing Shatner off into sub-orbit and all that. The mistake being to think that space isn’t a (not the, a) solution to repairing this planet. For example: But what if we could have solar panels that always face the sun, that are immune to the vagaries of British Isles weather, and which could never be accused of blighting the countryside? That is the idea behind out-there proposals for a series of giant solar farms floating in space, which are now

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It is never The Prince who is wrong but the advisors. So we fear it is here:

In his interview about climate change, ahead of his inaugural Earthshot Prize awards, the duke said: 'We need some of the world's greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live.'

This about Bezos boldly firing Shatner off into sub-orbit and all that.

The mistake being to think that space isn’t a (not the, a) solution to repairing this planet. For example:

But what if we could have solar panels that always face the sun, that are immune to the vagaries of British Isles weather, and which could never be accused of blighting the countryside?

That is the idea behind out-there proposals for a series of giant solar farms floating in space, which are now being considered by the Government. Experts say the systems - each one able to produce power equivalent to a nuclear plant - would provide 24-hour reliable energy and account for a quarter of Britain’s electricity needs.

The first mistake is to think that the current rocket firings are just those sub-orbital tourist trips. They’re actually part of the development programme for orbital heavy lift. The second is to think that being up there isn’t a solution to woes down here. It’s possible to take the Elon Musk view that there is indeed that asteroid out there with our name on it and the solution is to have some of us where that asteroid won’t be. It’s not necessary to take that view though.

For space based solar is entirely possible right now. It’s simply fearsomely expensive and thus not a viable solution as yet. Billionaires spending - or making in one case - their money making getting into orbit is not a diversion from solutions it’s a path to them. For getting into orbit cheaply then makes those fearsomely expensive possible solutions cheaper. Cheaper here means more viable - to the point that if orbit becomes cheap enough then space based solar becomes the solution of preference to our energy desires.

This isn’t to say that orbit will ever become cheap enough for this to be true. It is though to insist that finding out whether it can be made so isn’t a diversion from solving our local planetary problems, it’s one of the means of devising those solutions. As, you know, privately funded technological development tends to be.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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