It would be the world’s first major research centre dedicated to the task of reversing climate change using geoengineering.
The University of Cambridge is launching a new research centre to explore radical technological solutions including geoengineering to fix climate change. The Centre for Climate Repair will investigate radical approaches such as refreezing the planet’s poles and recycling carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from the atmosphere. This first-of-its-kind research lab is being launched in response to the concerns of many climate scientists that reducing emissions might not be enough to stop or reverse climate change.
The initiative is the brainchild of Sir David King, an Emeritus Professor at Cambridge and former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government. “What we do over the next 10 years will determine the future of humanity for the next 10,000 years,” he said in a conference earlier. “There is no major centre in the world that would be focused on this one big issue.”
- Brightening clouds above the poles
The centre will be working on an idea to brighten the clouds above Earth’s poles in order to make them capable of reflecting off more sunlight, which would reduce the temperatures and refreeze the melting ice caps. The idea is to pump seawater up to tall masts on uncrewed ships through very fine nozzles. This will produce tiny particles of salt which will be injected into the clouds making them more widespread and reflective.
- Greening the oceans
The centre will also explore the idea of greening the oceans to make them capable of absorbing more CO2 from the atmosphere. Scientists believe that fertilising the sea with iron salts will boost the growth of plankton and other forms of vegetation in the ocean.
- Carbon Capture Utilisation (CCU)
Another new idea is to develop an advanced version of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. While CCS means collecting CO2 emissions from coal or gas-fired power stations and other industrial factories and storing it underground, this advanced technology — Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) — is a scheme that effectively recycles the stored CO2. CCU involves building a plant that converts captured CO2 into products such as methanol, biofuel, and other forms of hydrocarbons to use as alternative and renewable sources of energy.
The radical idea
As a climate mitigation approach, Geoengineering was proposed by many climate scientists in the past. In 1977, Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis proposed ways of capturing all of Europe’s CO2 emissions and injecting them into sinking Atlantic Ocean currents. In 1982, Soviet scientist Mikhail Budyko suggested filling the stratosphere with sulphate particles to reflect sunlight back into space. In 1997, Edward Teller, inventor of the hydrogen bomb, proposed putting giant mirrors into space.
The majority of climate scientists had earlier called these ideas outlandish and ‘redolent of science fiction’. But the overall mood is slowly shifting as the temperatures continue to rise and international efforts to cut down carbon emissions are not yielding the desired results. A large number of scientists today believe that the planet is approaching a tipping point where nothing other than geoengineering can stop the climate crisis.