With threats of global warming and climate change looming large, environmentalists over the globe have started educating masses about the use of renewable energy systems, eco friendly products, and the use of eco friendly transportation systems that can contribute to the green cause. Though the use of sustainable technologies and products can help reduce carbon emissions, the eminent question baffling the minds of all environmentalists is what if things get uglier and what about the harm that has already been done. To prevent our Earth from a catastrophe, there is no dearth of researchers who have come up with amazing engineering proposals that can be used to manipulate the planetary environment in favor of humanity. Such proposals, which we call geoengineering, try to change the constituents of our own planet to prevent a disaster from happening and cater to the harm that has already been done. Here is a list of some of the most extraordinary geoengineering projects that have been proposed for a better future.
- Space Sunshade
We all know that sun is the only source of heat for our planet and without it life won’t be able to exist on Earth in any form. However, the life-giving heat radiation from our nearest star coupled with the carbon dioxide being mercilessly emitted all over the globe, have increased global temperatures, resulting in climate change and glacial melting. If conditions don’t improve, the vast chunks of ice that is breaking from glaciers will cause a rise in sea level, drowning some of the biggest cities in the world. To prevent this from happening and making sure that glacial ice remains frozen, Gregory Benford calculated that a Fresnel lens just 1000km across and only a few millimeters thick floating in space, would help reduce the solar energy reaching our planet by 1 percent, which might be bad news for solar power plants, but will definitely be better for the planet.
- Copying a volcano
Not many people think that a red hot lava emitting mountain could do anything to cool our planet, but contrary to the popular belief, it has been shown that a volcanic eruption can emit millions of tons of sulfur-dioxide into the atmosphere, creating an artificial cloud that can block some of the sun’s radiation. Using this knowledge, environmental scientist Alan Robock, stated that sulfur dioxide reacts with water in the atmosphere to create droplets of sulfuric acid, which can particularly suited to reflect sunlight back into empty space.
- Cloud Whitening
Similar in approach to the project that proposes a way to copy a volcano, cloud whitening or marine cloud brightening can also help mitigate the amount of sunlight received by our planet. The plan calls for towering spraying devices located on land or mounted on oceangoing vessels, which can spray a mist of pressurized seawater droplets with their dissolved salts to altitudes up to 300 meters. On that height, once water evaporates, bright salt crystals would remain to reflect incoming solar radiation and heat.
- Covering glaciers
One of the worst effects of global warming would be the melting of glaciers, which will raise sea levels. While most geoengineering proposals seek a way to regulate incoming solar radiation, researchers in some other parts of the world are proposing insulated material that can be used to cover large masses of glacial ice to prevent it from breaking down and melting. The covers would be colored white so that they can reflect sunlight just the way normal ice does, without letting in any heat.
- Artificial trees
Apart from pollution, another contributing factor to global warming is rapid deforestation. Trees act as lungs for our planet, by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and giving back oxygen. While trees take decades to grow and show their potential in mitigating global warming, environmental scientist Klaus Lackner from the University of Columbia is proposing artificial trees, which can be mass produced and erected to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by using absorbent resin. Though such trees won’t be giving any oxygen, they could still cool the Earth by scrubbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.