Since global warming became an international concern scientists have been hard at work looking for possible solutions. Geoengineering plans have long been disregarded as dangerous last ditch efforts, but it seems some ideas aren’t considered just science fiction anymore.
Mimic A Volcanic Eruption
Proposal: Spraying sulfur particles into the atmosphere, either by large balloons or aircraft, would reduce the Earth’s absorption of sunlight. The sulfur dioxide has the ability to essentially block sunlight, thus cooling down the planet. This phenomenon is seen naturally after a large volcanic eruption.
Risk: Results would be completely unpredictable and hard to control. Rainfall and weather patterns could be affected drastically. One study even suggests it would alter the color of our skylines.
Here’s what it could look like:
Wrap Greenland In A Blanket
Proposal: Prevent further melting by wrapping a glacier in reflective covering, or one huge blanket basically. The sheets absorb heat and prevent it from reaching the ice below, keeping it intact. Dr. Jason Box, a glaciologist from Ohio State University, is the brains behind this project.
Problem: Skeptics think the idea is largely impractical and would affect wildlife habitats. Yet Jason and his team actually conducted a test run of this idea for the Discovery Channel. They brought 31 giant rolls of uniquely designed white polypropylene blankets. These blankets, which are used in the Alps to preserve ski hills in the summer, covered a total surface area of 10,000 square meters.
Launch Solar Shields
Proposal: Dr. Roger Angel at the University of Arizona proposed in 2006 to launch trillions of space shades into orbit between the sun and Earth. The shades would collectively form a shield that would reduce sunlight reaching the planet.
Problems: A trillion mirrors, even very thin ones, would amount to 20 million tons of material. It would also cost an unvelievable amount of money to even begin a project such as this. Not to mention rocket failures or collisions might lead to a tremendous orbital debris cloud circling the Earth.
Proposal: These huge metal structures would take up carbon dioxide gas with the use of engineered plastics. The chemicals would react with the CO2 in the air to form carbonate precipitates and water. These by-products would then be piped to storage locations.
Problem: Much of the technology needed to produce these structures already exists. The biggest challenge would not be technological, but economic. How to manufacture the artificial trees cheaply and in sufficient quantities to make an impact.
Paired with windmills for ultimate Earth saving potential.
Proposal: Food production is one of the main producers of CO2 emissions as well as deforestation. By constructing our farms UP instead of OUT we would be saving energy, trees, and space.
Problems: The most obvious problem is that of scale. Making a substantial impact would require substituting floorspace in buildings for a substantial share of cultivated land. It’s a step in the right direction and in fact it’s already being tested out in many locations.
This vertical farm designed for New York City by Vincent Callebaut is meant to emulate a dragonfly wing.
Proposal: Creating man-made clouds by spraying saltwater high into the atmosphere would increase cloud cover and reflectivity. Sufficient sunlight would be reflected to compensate for any future release of CO2 into the atmosphere. In 2008 NASA and Bill Gates teamed up to hatch plans for a seawater-spraying machine, which they imagine would look like the ship pictured above.
Problem: Although the boats would in theory work successfully, it would take a large amount of both time, energy, and money to get the (nearly 1,900) boats up and running.
Cloud seeding with materials such as silver iodide and frozen carbon dioxide has already been used in drought areas. Wintertime cloud seeding is aimed at enhancing snowfall in mountainous regions to increase the snowfall.
Algae Covered Buildings
Proposal: Incorporating sealed containers of algal plants into building facades to actively take up Carbon Dioxide.
Problem: To make a large scale impact, a huge amount of algae would be needed, and that’s more pricey than other carbon-capture schemes. The algae would also need to be actively harvested and maintained, but it couldn’t hurt to have more buildings like this. Some buildings like this already are in the works, such as the BIQ building in Germany.
Proposal: Dumping large amounts of iron into the oceans would spark phytoplankton blooms. Phytoplankton are photosynthetic, needing sunlight and nutrients to grow, taking up carbon dioxide in the process. When the organisms die they sink to the bottom of the ocean, sequestering the carbon they took up.
Problem: The risks of this proposal are huge, including creating dead zones and toxic tides. Small trials have all failed, for the most part scientists have abandoned the idea of ocean fertilization.