Monday, February 19, 2007

Five ways to save the world

At the moment the media is dominated by the catastrophe that is global warming. Documentaries are aired on TV every week and the Saturday night films have taken on an apocalyptic edge. It has become the no. 1 issue in the press and is front page news most weekends. Slowly but surely the fear of global warming is creeping into the consciousness of every single person in this country and the public are getting real. Driving has become the new smoking; energy saving light bulbs are the in accessory. Even though I’ve always been aware of this phenomena, knew it was a really big deal, even I have been taken a back at the rate that this issue has escalated so quickly in the public domain of late. And rightly so. It is serious. It is something we are going to witness in our life times, and it will be scary. However, despite the media coverage, the political turnings, the increased awareness, can we really rely on the human population to act quickly and strongly enough to reduce the effects of global warming on this planet?

Last night BB2 aired a documentary entitled Five Ways to Save the World in which five scientists said "no" to the above question and proposed five radical ideas that could save the world from global warming. As incredible and mind blowing as some of these ideas may seem these scientists are not cranks – they exist as some of the most revered and respected scientists of our time. Their solutions fall into two categories 1. to reduce the effect of the sun’s rays, and 2. to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

First up in team “Block Sun” we have Professor Roger Angel from Arizona, the designer of the world's largest telescope. He proposes to put a giant glass sunshade in space which will deflect a small percentage of the sun's rays back into space. Giving the planet some sunglasses so to speak. Alongside him we have the winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry for discovering the causes of the hole in the ozone layer; Dutch Professor Paul Crutzen. Crutzen suggests that we duplicate the effects of volcanic eruptions and create a man-made sulphur screen around the earth by firing hundreds of rockets loaded with tons of sulphur into the stratosphere. Potentially causing some acid rain and more holes in the ozone layer, but never the less effective in reducing temperatures. Also in the “Block Sun” corner we have a rather more environmentally friendly solution. British atmospheric physicist Professor John Latham and engineer Stephen Salter have designed a fleet of remote-controlled yachts. Which would would pump fine particles of sea water into the clouds, increasing the thickness and “shinyness” of the clouds thus reflecting the sun's rays.

Meanwhile, in the “Reduce CO2” team we have Sydney engineer Professor Ian Jones who proposes to feed the plankton that live in the sea with tons of fertiliser. This will make the plankton grow and absorb carbon dioxide from the air. And on a similar note we have New York-based Professor Klaus Lackner who has designed a machine to capture carbon dioxide. His plan is to locate them across the globe where they would suck in carbon dioxide, turning it into a powder. The plan is to then bury the carbon dioxide deep under the ocean in disused oil or gas fields.

Realistic roadmaps or fanciful flights - these ideas are being considered by scientists and governments worldwide who fear that the human race will never be able to unify to reduce carbon dioxide or do enough in the way of renewable energy. I'll continue doing my bit and I'm sure millions of other people will too, but is it getting to the stage where we have to ask ourselves; are we too deep in a post-environmental society to be able to tackel this in an enironmental way? At what point should we accept science as the only realistic solution we have left?

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