The planet Earth, we love the planet Earth, most of us were born and grew up there. It has plants, and bacon, and seaside towns that are absolutely charming in the autumn. So when faced with the potential of an utter ecological catastrophe, we are naturally worried. Global warming is a huge problem that only seems to be getting worse, and it’s got to the point where simply recycling more isn’t going to turn things around. Saving the Earth is going to be a project that makes our efforts to put a man on the moon seem kind of half-assed.
This is a project that will require vision and ambition and just a little bit of crazy.
We need projects like:
An Attempt to Deflect the Sun with Mirrors
British astronomer Roger Angel is a man with vision. He believes that we can prevent global warming by launching 16 trillion glass discs into to space to limit the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth. Now with a name like Roger Angel and a plan like that you can be forgiven for immediately trying to call James Bond and send him to Angel’s secret volcano lair, but the truth is Angel is actually trying to help.
He believes that by blocking as little as 2% of the Sun’s rays we can reduce global warming and give the Earth a chance to cool. Of course “as little as 2%” actually requires a sunshade 100,000km wide (for scale- that would take you more than a quarter of the way to the moon).
The mirrors would be place 1.5 millions km away from the planet, at a point of “gravitational balance” between the Earth and the Sun. Unfortunately, Angel believes the project would cost an estimated £2 trillion, and take 30 years to complete, which is rather a long time for a last ditch hope to save the planet.
If the thousands and thousands of space mirrors seems a bit much, professors Stephen Salter and John Latham, from the University of Edinburgh and the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colarrado, have a much smaller, more manageable idea.
These two have been experimenting with using salt flares to see if it’s possible to create Marine Stratocumulus Clouds. Creating enough of these common, low-flying clouds could do much the same as Angel’s mirrors, reflecting the sun’s rays and slowing global warming.
Latham has said of the project “We’ve got the most massive global problem that we’ve ever had, so we’ve got to think big.”
But not thousands of space mirrors big, obviously.
The flares work by sending salt water into the clouds, redistributing moisture and increasing the reflectivity of the clouds.
Of course there are some worries, in that “geo-engineering” is basically seen as opening the bonnet on the planet’s eco system and mucking about with the wiring inside without really knowing what any of it does, so it may be a while before we see widespread cloud-making cannons.
The Seed Ark
Of course, all these ideas are just hypothetical brainchildren at the moment. This project, on the other hand, has already been built. Norway, not trusting the rest of the world not to kill everything, has built a gigantic, maximum security underground bunker into a mountainside.
This bunker doesn’t contain the cryogenically frozen remains of Norway’s greatest minds, or a secret stockpile of nuclear weapons. Nope, this bunker contains 400,000 different species of seed, a huge genetic reservoir for us to return to in times of trouble. After our biodiversity is completely ruined by the catastrophic effects of global warming, hopefully this seed bank will gives us the chance to get back some of what we’ve lost.
With these projects, plus a few offshore wind farms and recycling banks, maybe the Earth isn’t so doomed after all.
About the author: Chris Farnell is a freelance writer who has an interest in scientific and environmental issues.