The COP17 Durban Climate Change Conference ended with the failure to institute a binding emissions agreement, so it seems that the world's efforts to avoid the effects of climate change are at a crossroads. However while the politicians talk, scientists are coming up with bold and - dare we say - crazy ways to save the planet. Geo-engineering (the deliberate large-scale engineering and manipulation of the environment to combat or counteract anthropogenic changes in atmospheric chemistry) has long been touted as a way to counter the catastrophic effects of global warming, but has been considered dangerous by some as it interferes with the world's delicate ecosystems. However there are several schemes proposed by scientists all around the world that could offer a solution - read on for a look and let us know what you think in the comments!
1. Dam The Mediterranean
German architect Herman Sörgel devised a massive plan, also known as Atlantropa, that would establish a gigantic hydroelectric dam built across the Strait of Gibraltar. This would generate huge amounts of emission-free electricity while lowering the surface of the Mediterranean Sea by 200 meters. This would open up parts of the Adriatic Sea for settlement and farming lands. The plan was widely discussed in the 1920s and 30s, but was discarded for obvious practical reasons.
However in 1997, Robert Johnson, a retired professor at the University of Minnesota noted that the Mediterranean Sea is being starved of fresh water, due to many rivers such as the Nile being diverted for industry purposes. He pointed out that as a result the Mediterranean evaporates and grows saltier (aided by global warming). As more seawater pours in from the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar, the Mediterranean salty water is pushed out into the deep waters of the Atlantic where it causes a massive ecological problem.
As the Mediterranean water mixes with very cold water on the Atlantic floor , it is pushed by currents to the north. Normally Europe’s warm current isn’t affected, but if the Mediterranean outflow is altered by a dam the warm water would instead be pushed west into the seas of Canada where it would create increased snowfall expand the country’s ice fields.
So there you go. Want to stop the Northern hemisphere freezing AND have more land for an ever-growing population? Dam the Straits of Gibraltar!
2. Wrap Greenland In A Blanket
Greenland is the largest island in the world, so wrapping it in a blanket sounds wildly impractical – but that is exactly what Dr Jason Box, a glaciologist from Ohio State University, proposes. The professor believes that if the world covers the country’s glaciers with blankets, this will be enough to reflect the sun’s rays and prevent the ice caps from melting. Interestingly, the universities of Innsbruck and Zurich are already using this technology in the Alps on the Zugspitze glacier.
Box and his team have previously tested their theory as part of a Discovery Channel documentary. They used 31 giant rolls of specially designed white polypropylene blankets to cover a total surface area of 10,000 square meters.
Foil wasn’t used because it isn’t good at insulating objects beneath it. The blankets absorb this heat above the blanket and stops it from reaching the ice below, keeping it intact.
3. Make More Clouds
Last year NASA and Bill Gates teamed up to hatch plans for a seawater-spraying machine that could prevent climate change by creating clouds that reflect sunlight away from earth. The machines could suck up ten tons of water per second and then spray it over 3,000 feet into the air, increasing the density of clouds. Although the plan would help to mitigate climate change, it would take a large amount of energy to power each individual ship – and a study showed that it would it take 1,900 ships at a cost of over $7 billion to stop Earth’s temperature from rising.
Photo by John Bruckman
4. Flood Death Valley
It is estimated that in a century, sea levels could rise as high as 28 inches. Some scientists are proposing a plan to lower those levels by flooding desert areas with water. It makes sense – if the ice caps melted causing water levels to rise by 67 feet, draining the seas into dry land would prevent them from naturally flooding populated areas. What dry land you say? Well, areas such as the Urfan Depression and Death Valley have been discussed – as they are below sea level, they could potentially hold millions of gallons of water.
The only problem? If all the ice caps melted, this plan would only lower the sea level by 2.5 feet – and it would be a massive undertaking to say the least.
5. Give the Earth a Solar Shield
This list wouldn’t be complete without one crazy idea that takes place in space. Theorized by Professor Roger Angel, the plan would see the construction of a massive 100,000 square mile ‘solar shield’ made from trillions of lenses. This would help to deflect the sun’s rays (by 2%) and keep the Earth cooler.
What’s the catch? Well, seeing that it takes years to plan a shuttle mission, this project is practically impossible. Oh, and it would cost $350 trillion – 12 times the global national income.
It looks like our fate is in the hands of the politicians for now.