The Institite of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has published a 100-year study to geo-engineer the planet, using artificial trees and algae blooms to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere and create 1M jobs.
The Migration, Adaption and Geo-Engineering (MAG) approach outlined by the IMechE comes from a year of work and is the first analysis of practical measures to deal with rising CO2 levels.
Head of IMechE Environment and Climate Change, Dr Tim Fox, is lead author: “Our report is exciting, innovative and novel. For the first time we really examine some of practical initiatives we could adopt to essentially clean up the mess we have made.
“After decades of failed mitigation, geo-engineering may give us those extra few years to transition to a low carbon world and prevent any one of the future climate change scenarios we all fear.
“This report has been produced with input from our young engineers and we hope it inspires fellow young engineers and scientists to work in the MAG sector and shape the future of our planet. After all, our future is the next generation,” he said.
Technologies that could be used include:
Artificial or mechanical ‘trees’, powered by wind turbines, which would sequester CO2 from the environment in a similar way to natural trees, but several thousand times as effective. Trees would cost around £15,000 per unit and remove some 10 tonnes of CO2 a day. 100,000 would be sufficient to capture the UK’s transport pollution. ‘Mechanical forests’ could be planted along motorways or offshore
Energy from Algae
Photo bioreactors (PBRs), which contain algae, could absorb CO2 and produce a rich biofuel. Algae could live in both saline or waste water, keeping the system separate from drinking supplies. The fuel is believed to be between 18.5MJ/kg and 35MJkg - comperable to coal at 24MJ/kg.
PBRs could be incorporated into any building and waste could be used as fertiliser.
Reflective materials on buildings would reduce the ‘heat island’ effect, where towns and cities are warmer than the surrounding area. Los Angeles is 4 degrees hotter than its suburbs, for example.
This heat accelerates smog formation and encourages the use of air conditioning.Reflective roofing could reduce cooling energy use by up to 60% but issues of glare and aesthetics would need to be considered.
The five recommendations are:
- Government sets-up a £10M-£20M fund to investigate geo-engineering approaches
- Use green research facility The Tyndall Centre to co-ordinate and deliver a multi-disciplined programme to research geo-engineering techniques.
- Promising geo-engineering approaches be piloted.
- A realistic roadmap for decarbonisation of the global economy should be developed integrating geo-engineering.
- The UK should lead the commercial development of geo-engineering techniques, stimulting private investment