Changing the World

If science is to be believed, climate change is real. If that is to be believed, the next thing to realise is that it is difficult to stop. It’s not like you can convince the world to stop driving or take shorter showers. Yep, saving the world is going to be an uphill battle, but as humans in the 21st century, the problem is not going to be solved by talking out the issues. It will be solved through innovation and technology. A major candidate comes in the form of geoengineering which describes a variety of practices that focus on changing features of the Earth.

One option we have is cloud brightening. According to this article, the process basically makes clouds more reflective to reduce the increase of heat created by the sun. Another radical method is to simply pluck the harmful CO2  gases from the air using machines in a process called carbon removal.

The question is if these processes make sense, why aren’t they in wide use, and why is this the first time I’m hearing about them (if you have heard about them, focus on the first question.) The answer is one of the best characteristics of science, scientific scepticism.

The article about cloud brightening explains that the process requires large ships travelling the ocean to launch salt particles into the air using a machine. It also explains that the machine alone produced 30 megawatts which can be double the energy the ship uses as it travels. Researchers have found that using this method at this point in time would actually increase CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

The critics of carbon removal note that it also uses an inefficient amount of energy, its potential is very limited, and that the method of compressing the carbon into liquid form works, but would require the large volume of storage to be effective.

While this is a victory for the sceptics, shooting down these ideas is still a major step forward. Yes, they would have caused more harm than good, but due to scrutiny, the problem areas have been identified, and one day in the future, new developments may make them the key to saving the world.


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