Scientists in Cambridge plan to set up a research centre to develop new ways to repair the Earth’s climate.
It will investigate radical approaches such as refreezing the Earth’s poles and removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
The centre 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 the first of its kind in the world and could lead to dramatic reductions in carbon emissions.
The initiative is co-ordinated by the government’s former chief scientific adviser, Prof Sir David King.
“What we do over the next 10 years will determine the future of humanity for the next 10,000 years. There is no major centre in the world that would be focused on this one big issue,” he told BBC News.
Some of the approaches described by Sir David are often known collectively as geoengineering.
The Centre for Climate Repair is part of Cambridge university’s Carbon Neutral Futures Initiative, led by Dr Emily Shuckburgh.
She, said the initiative’s mission would be to “solve the climate problem”.
“It has to be. And we can’t fail on it,” she said.
It will bring together scientists and engineers with social scientists.
“This really is one of the most important challenges of our time, and we know we need to be responding to it with all our efforts,” Dr Shuckburgh told BBC News.
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.
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.
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