This report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers argues that geo-engineering could be a vital component for tackling climate change, providing the world with extra time to decarbonise the global economy.
With global temperatures continuing to raise due to greenhouse gases many believe that we are fast approaching a critical point in dealing with climate change. The consensus is that we cannot allow global average temperature to rise by 2oC above pre-industrial levels. If we do, many believe that this will cause dramatic changes to our climate which could jeopardise modern civilisation. For many years, governments have primarily focused reducing the amount of CO2 each nation emits into the atmosphere. More recently, climate change adaptation has been embraced: an approach which sets out to ensure that critical assets, such as power generation, transport links and the urban environment, are redesigned and rebuilt to protect against future changes in climate. A third, less explored approach, is geo-engineering: where technology is used to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, or where the planet is cooled by reflecting solar radiation back into space.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has undertaken an assessment of a range of potential geo-engineering options available under its ‘Cooling the Planet’ programme. Of the many options reviewed, the three most promising have been outlined in this report.
- Artificial trees: research is being undertaken into building machines which, like trees, can remove CO2 from the atmosphere. This occurs when air passes through the device and CO2 sticks to a sorbent material. The CO2 is then removed and buried underground in the same way as conventional carbon capture and storage (CCS).
- Algae-coated buildings: algae naturally absorbs CO2 through photosynthesis. Strips of algae can be fitted to the outside of buildings and then periodically harvested from e the surfaces and used as biofuel.
- Reflective buildings: reducing the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the earth’s climate has the potential to cool the planet. This can simply be achieved by making surfaces more reflective and thus lowering the heating effect the sun’s rays have on us.
The Institution proposes a climate change roadmap over the next 75 to 100 years, in which geo-engineering is an integrated supporting element in global climate mitigation and adaptation plans.
Click here to read the report
Photo from Creative Commons: Flickr: nima