Gallery: 100,000 Synthetic Trees Could Help Combat Climate Change


The field of geo-engineering has launched all kinds of outlandish ideas for combating climate change, from dumping iron into the world’s oceans to shooting mirrors into space. A report published last Thursday from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) suggested that a forest of 100,000 artificial “trees” could be “planted” near depleted oil and gas reserves to trap carbon in a filter and bury it underground. The carbon suckers look more like fly swatters than actual arbors, but researchers say that once fully developed, the “trees” could remove thousands of times more carbon than a real tree.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME)‘s report evaluated hundreds of geo-engineering projects and suggested three that could help mitigate global climate change (and that were actually feasible using current or soon-to-be-ready technology). Depending on how you look at it (and how creative a thinker you are), the suggestions could be lauded as really interesting, or just really insane.

In addition to artificial trees, the IME report suggests growing algae in tubes on the sides of buildings. The algae, which traps carbon during photosynthesis, could be collected and transformed into charcoal, which could then be buried underground. The report also points out the benefits of painting roofs white, which reflects sunlight and helps mitigate heat island effect in urban areas.

While the ideas sound good in theory, researchers have yet to see how the tech would actually work, as no one has quite mastered carbon capture and storage. And even the engineers themselves warn that these geo-engineering projects won’t provide a solution to global warming–they’re meant to be used in conjunction with larger, more long-term efforts to reduce global carbon emissions.

The report also includes a 100-year plan to de-carbonize the global economy, and will be presented at party conferences this fall. Who knows–with the right investments and innovations, the next 10 to 20 years could bring a world filled with fake forests and floating space mirrors.

+ Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Via The Guardian


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  1. Parnupol March 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    This technology should open source for worldwide expert brainstorm.May be the only hope to stop global warming.

  2. ananyareddy March 23, 2010 at 8:02 pm


  3. sowmya March 12, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Is this technology efficient is there any detailed case study regarding this plz help me out

  4. iahawaii September 5, 2009 at 3:13 am

    How about dumping human waste in th eoil wells and finding oil there in 25 years or algae planted in the old oil wells and producing methane or other types and go back later with drills and get some recycled petrol from that carbon

  5. vogelkopbower September 4, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Have the designers of this idea has ever designed any kind of major road? These are fatal accidents waiting to happen. I realise this is just CG stage, but the designer may want to think of this before presenting it for official support. If the materials could be be of a material that will lessen impact (many street / highway trees that are used are of a specifically selected for their inherent structure that is softer material and thus lessen impact), that would be a thought.
    Interesting idea, but maybe worth thinking about this.

    Good luck with it.

  6. domiat September 4, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Hmm…Prima fascia, these paddleboards look ugly. Perhaps if they actually work I could grow to like them.

  7. denisegp September 3, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I’m a fairly new reader of Inhabitat, but I’m not a troll. So, please don’t flame me, but I was wondering: these proposed technologies and mega-gadgets that each can do the work of [insert ridiculously high number] of trees, could they ever affect their local area so much that the real trees around them suffer from lack of CO2?

  8. kamullis September 3, 2009 at 10:03 am

    This is the most idiotic idea I have ever heard. There are already all kinds of things that exists in nature that take use 100% solar energy and necessitate no mined or synthetic materials or manufacturing and they absorbs carbon dioxide and respirates oxygen, all for free!!! The are called plants!!! You want to waste energy and materials on building something to do this and it will probably also take energy to run!? WTF!!!! Just limit deforestation and plant more f’n trees! No wonder we are destroying our planet!!! Even “smart” people are mf’n idiots!!

  9. elepski September 3, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Firstly, The mirrors idea is BS… to costly and would only produce more emissions in the effort to get them up. The synthetic trees idea however, could work. If they can get the tech to work and have a place to store it or a way to convert it… why not try? At the very least in the urban centers or along highways as illustrated.

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