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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Geo-Engineering: New Technology for averting Climate Change

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To counteract the impact of global warming, scientists and engineers have proposed large scale interventions – called as geo-engineering. Some of these interventions are-

A. Launching reflectors into space; and releasing sulphur into the upper atmosphere; and

B. Releasing sulphur into the upper atmosphere.

It is thought that these techniques would increase reflectivity of the earth. Scientists have scrutinized these two schemes through cost and system modeling analyses and have suggested that these interventions would be expensive. On the other hand these would require international cooperation and if implemented, these could inflict significant dangers to the whole region.

Exploiting CO2 sequestration potential in nutrient rich but iron deficient parts of the ocean is another technology proposed by engineers. These parts of oceans do not support growth of planktons due to their iron scarcity. If large amounts of iron are supplied to these areas of oceans, it can stimulate plankton-blooms that will in turn bind carbon molecules and eventually sequester them on the deep sea floor. However, a group of scientists is of the opinion that this practice can intervene in nutrient cycling that feed ocean organisms. The convention on the prevention of marine pollution, reported in November-2007 that planned operations for large scale fertilizations operations using micronutrients (e.g. Iron) to sequester carbon dioxide were unjustified.

Air Capture Device of pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, hypothetical (UNEP 2008)

A group of scientists and engineers from the Earth Institute of Columbia University has suggested the use of artificial CO2 collector, which emulates the sequestration capability of photosynthesizing trees. This suggestion is based on fish tank filters and this ‘air capture’ method can directly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere above coastal areas. The success in ongoing experiments and financial support can determine viability of the scheme.

Reference : Lackner 2003, Lackner and Sachs 2005, IMO 2007, Morton 2007; quoted in the UNEP Year Book2008.

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