So far, global political efforts to curb climate change have been slow and fraught with delays. In the meantime, scientists across the globe have turned their attention to geoengineering to try and find solutions in time to save our planet from rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientists and engineers have suggested a few different approaches to protecting the atmosphere, and ultimately, geoengineering is the largest-scale intervention we have to counteract climate change within earth’s natural systems.
Geoengineering focuses mainly on how carbon dioxide can be removed from our atmosphere to slow global warming and its impacts.
The science focuses on the general qualities of the solar rays that hit earth, which has led to some interesting theories as to how to go about saving the planet. Here are 5 of the most promising ones.
#1: Iron in the Oceans
Our seas are full of living organisms and phytoplankton that capture CO2 as they photosynthesise. They sink into the ocean when they die and trap the CO2 with them.
Phytoplankton need iron in order to procreate and photosynthesise, and geoengineers have suggested adding more iron to the sea to boost plankton populations and thereby reduce earth’s carbon dioxide levels. This process is called ‘ocean fertilisation’.
#2: Filtering Carbon
Many engineers have suggested removing CO2 from the environment and burying it (called carbon sequestration) but Swiss scientists have a different idea. They aim to take the CO2 and use it for various purposes through a technology that uses massive fans to filter carbon dioxide from the air.
The filters are able to trap CO2 and release it later, at which point it can be used to grow greenhouse vegetables, carbonate drinks, form biofuel, or even create electricity to allow you to play bingo Australia games online.
The devastating loss of our forests has led to skyrocketing CO2 levels, but reducing them may be as simple as replanting more trees. Trees use solar energy to extract carbon dioxide and water from their environments, breathing out pure oxygen as they go.
Geoengineers have suggested that planting trees is a good idea for countless reasons – but it is still not certain whether we will be able to plant enough trees to offset our growing carbon emissions from fossil fuels.
Latin for ‘whiteness’, the earth’s albedo is rapidly increasing, allowing it to reflect more sunlight instead of absorbing it. White colours reflect solar rays better than dark ones, and by using geoengineering to whiten the clouds using salty sea water, scientists are hoping to slow down the heating of the planet.
Painted white homes, white flower and plant gardens, and even large reflective shields in the desert have also been suggested.
#5: Space Reflectors
Engineers are considering launching millions of reflective mirrors into space to repel the sun’s rays and cool the earth. It might seem rudimentary (and expensive!), but if even 1% of sunlight could be reflected, we might be able to reverse climate change.
The mirrors would need a surface area of roughly 1.6 million square kilometres in order to be effective – about the size of the country of Iran.