*Pic: Earth and Venus ~ an image prepared in a virtual world by Kim Peart
Though Venus is nearly the size of Earth, it’s completely different to our paradise planet. Venus has a thick atmosphere and is so hot at the surface, rocks glow in a heat that can melt lead. Unlike our beautiful Earth, Venus is hell on a rock. Over the millennia the second rock from the Sun grew in the imagination as a planet of love, but the truth revealed a lover too hot to touch. Could Venus be tamed, so mere mortals could caress new life there?
James Hansen, often referred to as the grandfather of climate science, began his career with NASA on the study of Venus, until moving onto Earth research and in time became head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a position he held until he retired a couple of years ago. As if inspired by Hansen’s early work, researchers there recently “developed a model to explore Venus’ past using tools and algorithms similar to those employed by climate scientists.” 
The results revealed that Venus was once much more like Earth and could have supported life. If this was once the case, could it become the case again? Could Venus be transformed into a second Earth?
To tackle the terraforming of a dead hot rock, some basics need to be considered. Venus has a very slow rotation, where a day there is the same as 243 days on Earth. This slow rotation and being closer to the Sun may have been the combined culprits in the runaway greenhouse effect that saw Venus lose all its water, which evaporated in the heat and rose in the hot air, to be whisked away into space by the solar wind. The air that is left is mainly carbon dioxide (CO2).
The other problem for Venus is that the Sun is now much hotter than when Venus was born. Over the past 4.5 billion years our star has increased its heat output by 35% and has so much fuel in reserve, will continue to burn fiercely over the next 5 billion years, until expanding to the orbit of the Earth as a red giant.
We are looking to a future where Earth will one day become a second Venus. How soon? Left alone, Mother Nature might keep the Earth house going for another billion years, until the place gets too hot for life, turning the Earth into a hot dead rock. When James Hansen investigated the matter in the light of rising levels of CO2 in the air, he came to conclude that the future of life on Earth could be prematurely terminated in what he labelled “the Venus syndrome.” 
Earth’s life support systems currently compensate for the Sun’s increasing temperature, to keep the planet cool enough for life. Adding up the complex sums, Hansen could see that with CO2 above 350 parts per million (ppm), there was a problem. Hansen recommended that the Earth’s temperature rise needs to be kept below 1.5C, or we are running with the risk of a runaway greenhouse effect on Earth and a future in the Solar System with two Venus-like planets.
Hansen saw that an upper limit of 350 ppm CO2 in the air was critical to keep our planet’s temperature rise below 1.5C. This finding has become widely accepted and raised as a target at the Paris climate change conference in December 2009, which Hansen attended.
Our problem now is a CO2 level racing past 400 ppm and the planet’s temperature is already up by 1C. We have entered the danger zone, made worse when it’s appreciated that there is a time delay of many years between the level of CO2 in the air and the future temperature rise, because CO2 takes a long time to warm the planet up, but once heated, it stays heated for a long time.
CO2 in the air also goes into the sea, turning the oceans acidic. The higher the CO2 rises, the more acidic the oceans become, as the sea absorbs CO2. There are concerns in the science community that rising acidity and growing dead zones, which are also increasing in number, will lead to a blooming of sulphur bugs in the sea, releasing toxic hydrogen sulphide gas, which can kill life on land and damage the ozone layer, letting in lethal doses of solar and cosmic radiation, killing more life on land. It is now believed that this was one of the processes at work in the Great Dying 252 million years ago, when most of life on Earth was sent into extinction. Earth may have been at risk of becoming a second Venus at that time.
When we visit a doctor and get a warning to change our ways or risk death, do we continue our bad habits to see if the doctor is right?
The action that is needed now and fast, is the extraction of excess carbon from the air, but this will be a monstrous effort requiring a humongous volume of energy to do the work. As the effort to fix the Earth’s carbon crisis hasn’t even begun yet, and as a hotter Earth is now releasing stores of carbon from places like a fast-warming Arctic region, where the permafrost is melting, our children, or our grandchildren, may find themselves in a race for survival, where they may need to live on Earth more as if they were living on the Moon.
There can be no escape to Venus, as making that planet a second Earth would be a very long way into the future, but the effort to begin that work may serve as the inspiration to fix the carbon problem on Earth. It would be far better to look toward a future with two Earths, than a future with two dead hot rocks. We owe it to our children and our grandchildren, to consider what we can do now to improve their future survival, prosperity and creative opportunities. It would be very selfish of us not to consider these matters and what we can do about it.
FIRST STEP TO A SECOND EARTH
The first step toward creating a second Earth out of a dead Venus, will be to establish a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth. Once we achieve that, there will be no further cost to Earth, but an infinite return on the investment, from across the Solar System and among the stars. This would be a giant leap in space development and an investment in a cosmic survival insurance policy. By investing in space, we will be insuring the future of life on and from Earth.
With geopolitical tensions rising on Earth, a civil war in Syria, a semi-frozen war in Ukraine and China’s expansion into the South China Sea, there are a number of fuses for a global conflict and those fuses are all quite short. An unexpected spark may force anger to the brink of nuclear madness and if that wire is kicked, what future might there be for us in a nuclear winter, or for our grandchildren? 
If there were a project that could engage all nations, a global vision for a new beginning, maybe we could avoid nuclear madness and create a whole new chapter in human history. If we could inspire the nations to rise to the challenge of building a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth, that may prove to be the key to assuring our survival and a future for future generations. Instead of tripping into conflict on Earth, in part driven by the need for land and defence, nations could expand into space, where there is no limit to development.
To run industry beyond Earth, we will need energy and there is no shortage of power radiating from the Sun. By building solar power stations in space, resources from the Moon, asteroids and Mars can be made into any product for Earth and space markets. We would be able to use the power of the Sun to extract excess carbon from the Earth’s air and also process extracted carbon into a useful resource. With space development, a safe Earth can be delivered to future generations.
Unless we are stark raving mad, we will surely consider every option to win back a safe Earth and offer survival to our descendants.
With industry in space and no cost to Earth beyond the initial investment, we would be able to build a sunshade to keep the Earth cool. A sunshade could also double as a solar power collector. Instead of a short future for Earth, or only a billion years for life, we could extend the tenure of life on Earth by billions of years, with a sunshade, which gets added to as needed.
THE COFFEE PROBLEM
If the promise of infinite wealth isn’t enough to inspire survival action in the hearts of people on Earth, perhaps a threat to the coffee supply will get them moving.
As a consequence of rising CO2 in the air driving up temperatures, it is being predicted that coffee bean production will be hit severely and may be halved by 2050. Will we risk losing the coffee supply? 
One back-up approach could be to grow coffee in disease free environments in space, where the exact temperature is maintained for the plant. Space coffee could be exported to Earth, to keep the minds of the planet alert, until the Earth’s conditions are stabilised.
With industry in space, it will be possible to build orbital space settlements, where an Earth gravity is generated by rotation. There is no shortage of raw materials beyond Earth to build space cities for more people than have ever lived on Earth, located anywhere in the Solar System, floating in space and drawing on the energy of the Sun, like cosmic flowers. 
Using hydroponics, and even the creation of space ecologies, food could be grown in space to meet the needs of space and Earth. Trees could be grown in space that would provide timber for any need.
In a future where most of the human family could be living in space with ready access to zero gravity, the future of the Olympics may be a whole range of weightless and low gravity sports. Zero-G volleyball played in three dimensions, or synchronised dance flight in a zero gravity space. Balls hit by a cricket bat in space would fly straight.
BACK TO THE CHALLENGE OF TERRAFORMING VENUS
With the ability to build any number of space habitats, and with no cost to Earth beyond the initial investment of a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth, the Venus question is not so pressing. It would be more of a hobby, really, to see what could be done.
Floating cities could be located in the air of Venus and if there is a need, the air could be mined for carbon and oxygen. This would begin to reduce the atmosphere problem on second rock. Carbon is a very useful element and with the heat of the Sun, might be shaped into any desired resource. If carbon were to become a key building material, then the carbon and oxygen mines in the air of Venus may be kept very busy for thousands of years.
To deal with the Sun’s intense heat, a sunshade could be built above Venus, which could also double as a solar power collector. This would help to begin to bring down the temperature of the planet. With a Solar System wide civilization on the go, resources could be collected in the outer solar system, where there are trillions of objects and brought in for the work on Venus.
With time and resources, the air could slowly be made more suitable for life and oceans formed. This would be a gentle process, unlike the wild bombardment of Earth in its infancy. As hot molten rocks, Earth and Venus boiled away all their early water. Heavy elements, like iron, sank to the centre of the planet. It was asteroids and comets that delivered water to Earth that became our oceans, along with the iron and gold we mine now. Venus is believed to have once had as much water as Earth. This could happen again, with the terraforming of the planet of love, where there can be warmth, but no longer a killer heat.
The long days on Venus could even be made shorter, by building large rockets on frames with foundations embedded in the rock of Venus, with the engines high in the air, using the air of Venus as the propellant. There could be many powerful rocket engines around the equator, like a sunwheel firework and with enough force, over time the rotation of Venus could be made to go faster. The energy to do this work would naturally, be drawn from the Sun, with its virtually infinite power supply, which could be collected by the Venus sunshade that doubles as a solar power collector.
There would be no need to rush the terraforming of Venus into a second Earth, with a steady as she goes approach. The main game for human civilization would be off-planet and across the Solar System. Solar power stations located close to the Sun would be able to harvest a vast amount of energy, which would then be beamed to the outer solar system, where the Sun’s light is faint, or delivered as batteries that are recharged near the Sun and sent to the outer Solar System.
We can focus on a problem and never see more than the problem, or we can investigate working solutions to any problem and solve the problem. We do not need to fall victim to nuclear war, or a carbon apocalypse. If we will lift our game and imagine what we can achieve, all we have to do is make it happen.
We can create an amazing civilization beyond Earth, and in the process win back a safe Earth. We can plan for Venus becoming a second Earth, even if only as a hobby. We can look to a future where we explore the stars.
If we cling to the cradle of third rock, what will become of the place? We have hesitated in the next phase of our evolution for too long. We thought we had centuries to play up on Earth, but now we find we have been running around in nappies for way too long. We need to get out of the nursery and find our place among the stars, while we still can.
As John Conner says about the climate change threat to the coffee bean, “Because we’ve got to build a new economy that doesn’t threaten things in our lifestyle such as our coffee.” 
Our new economy needs to be among the stars. A stellar economy, where the gold is the Sun and poverty is history, where all citizens are valued and have a life role in our celestial civilization.
 NASA climate model: Venus was once habitable
Brooks Hays, 11 August 2016, Space Daily
 Storms of My Grandchildren
James Hansen, 2009, Bloomsbury Press
 The potential for global conflict, nuclear madness and what we in Australia can do about it, is explored in an earlier article ~
Can an Aussie Paper Cat survive a hungry Chinese Panda?
Kim Peart, 6 August 2016, Tasmanian Times
 Climate change could cut coffee production up to 50pc by 2050, report shows
Josephine Asher, 29 August 2016, ABC News Online
 Orbital Space Settlements
National Space Society
FURTHER READING ~
Terraforming of Venus
How do we Terraform Venus?
Matt Williams, 21 Jun 2016, Universe Today
*Kim Peart was raised in Howrah from 1952, and watched the old farmlands transform into suburb. Finding adventure in Scouts and Army Cadets, Kim later pursued art and founded a Viking Society in Tasmania in 1975, seeking history and culture in the spirit of adventure. In 1976 Kim saw an ad for space settlement and signed up to be a space development advocate. Environmental matters came later and figuring out how we can live in harmony with Nature. Earth matters and space issues merged in 2006 when Kim wrote his document ~ Creating A Solar Civilization ~ exploring how we can only achieve a sustainable human presence on Earth, by building a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth. Kim now lives in Ross with his wife, Jennifer, from where they host global meetings with space advocates in Second Life, a virtual world, where people can connect globally and plan local action toward creating a celestial future, and winning back a safe Earth. Kim is the director of Space Pioneers and may be contacted about art, Vikings, Tasmanian history, Earth care, building a stronger Australia, sending poverty into history, space settlement, stellar exploration and virtual world technologies ~ firstname.lastname@example.org ~ In 2014 Kim attended the first Silicon Valley Virtual Reality conference, where he met the pioneers of a new age of the Internet. The adventure has only just begun.