Can Venus Teach Us to Take Climate Change Seriously?

Venus has been called Earth’s „evil twin.“ Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
If human-induced climate change continues unchecked, 10 percent of the U.S. economy could evaporate by 2100, a 1,656-page federal report the White House slipped out on Black Friday (Nov. 23) warned — but a nearby world has an even hotter climate problem than ours, and scientists say we could learn some valuable lessons from it.

By Meghan Bartels |

That world is Venus, Earth’s „evil twin,“ which was once nice enough — until something went wrong and the atmosphere began trapping a little too much heat. Scientists aren’t positive precisely how events played out, but the runaway greenhouse effect that resulted is beyond debate: Venus now clocks in at a staggering 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius).

„I think Venus is an important warning: Greenhouse atmospheres are not theoretical,“ Ellen Stofan, director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and former chief scientist at NASA, told And in fact, Venus has already warned us about a climate threat — Stofan said that it was studying our neighbor that prompted scientists to look for an ozone hole here on Earth. They found it, and in perhaps the only veritable climate success, international agreements have cut production of the compounds that eat away at ozone. [Japan at Venus: Photos from the Akatsuki Spacecraft’s Mission]

Much of the appeal of Venus comes from the fact that despite its horrifying modern appearance, it’s actually really similar to Earth. „Picture a planet that’s just like Earth but it’s a little hotter because it’s a little closer to the sun — and that would be Venus,“ David Grinspoon, a planetary scientist and astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Institute, told

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