Scientists in Cambridge plan to set up a research centre to develop new ways to repair the Earth’s climate. The centre will be the first of its kind in the world and is being created because of fears that current approaches will not on their own stop dangerous and irreversible damage to the planet.
The initiative is co-ordinated by the government’s former chief scientific adviser, Prof Sir David King who said: “What we do over the next 10 years will determine the future of humanity for the next 10,000 years.”
Some of the approaches being considered are:
Refreezing the Poles
One of the most promising ideas for refreezing the poles is to “brighten” the clouds above them.
The idea is to pump seawater up to tall masts on uncrewed ships through very fine nozzles.
This produces tiny particles of salt which are injected into the clouds, which makes them more widespread and reflective, and so cool the areas below them.
Another new approach is a variant of an idea called carbon capture and storage (CCS).
CCS involves collecting carbon dioxide emissions from coal or gas fired power stations or steel plants and storing it underground.
Prof Peter Styring, of the University of Sheffield, is developing a carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) pilot scheme with Tata Steel in Port Talbot in South Wales which effectively recycles CO2.
The scheme involves setting up a plant on-site which converts the firm’s carbon emissions into fuel using the plant’s waste heat.
Greening the Oceans
Other ideas the centre would explore include greening the oceans so they can take up more CO2.
Such schemes involve fertilising the sea with iron salts which promote the growth of plankton.
Previous experiments have shown that they don’t take up sufficient CO2 to make the scheme worthwhile and might disrupt the ecosystem.
But according to Prof Callum Roberts of York University, approaches that are currently thought beyond the pale now have to be considered and, if possible, made to work.
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