As a matter of fact, that’s actually up for debate at the moment. Green activists have taken the sensible position that in order to send a rocket into space, you need a lot of rocket fuel, which means a lot of environmental pollution. But according to Virgin Galactic’s own PR department, their commercial space tourism rocket SpaceShipTwo carries six passengers, and the CO2 emissions per passenger, “will be equivalent to approximately 60-percent of a per-passenger New York-London roundtrip.” They further claim that “every astronaut is an environmentalist,” meaning that anyone who looks at Earth from space will want to fight for its preservation. Environmentalists are skeptical of both of Virgin’s claims, but Virgin hasn’t produced any evidence to support their case.
Some scientist believe that space tourism could make climate change worse. According to a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, the climate change caused by black carbon (also known as soot), emitted during a decade of commercial space flight could be comparable to what is already emitted from global aviation.
The study suggests that emissions from 1,000 private rocket launches a year would persist high in the stratosphere, potentially altering global atmospheric circulation and distributions of ozone. The simulations show that the changes to Earth’s climate could increase polar surface temperatures by 1 degree C, and reduce polar sea ice by 5-15%.
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