Global environmental challenges
Save the planet, and win a T-shirt?
If you come up with an idea for saving the planet from global warming, you may be the lucky winner of a T-shirt emblazoned with your design.
A group opposed to large-scale intervention in nature to change the climate – such as placing vast mirrors in space to reflect the sun’s rays or fertilising the oceans with iron to promote the growth of algae that soak up greenhouse gases from the air – wants to hear of any zany ideas by April Fool’s Day.
Canada-based ETC Group, which says it works for conservation of ecological diversity and human rights, says the winner of what it calls the “pie-in-the-sky” contest will get a T-shirt and ETC will publish a cartoon of the winning entry on its website.
“The winning submission will be original, ludicrous and contain at least a nano-shred of perverse logic,” ETC says. “Industrialization geo-engineered us into the climate mess in the first place, and some companies and scientists are crazy enough to think they can geoengineer us out of it,” said Kathy Jo Wetter of ETC Group.
Proponents of geo-engineering says that short-cut fixes are worth studying in a world where governments are failing to rein in rising emissions of greenhouse gases, from factories, power plants and cars.
And warming already under way could cause far bigger damage — from heatwaves to rising sea levels — than any impact from the novel technologies. The picture at the right shows chimneys at a chemical factory at Tianjin in China.
Serious proposals from scientists include deploying a vast thin metallic barrier between the earth and the sun, with 100 space shuttle flights, or spraying a smoke of tiny polluting particles high in the sky to dim sunlight.
(Volcanic eruptions can, at least temporarily, cool the planet by spewing out smoke that masks the sun — the picture at the top is of the Llaima volcano in Chile last year, taken by Ivan Alvararo. One suggestion in the spirit of ETC’s contest: drop atom bombs down a remote volcano to trigger eruptions: that would fix the climate and help get rid of ageing Cold War stockpiles)
The U.N. Climate Panel, drawing on climate research by about 2,500 experts, advised caution about geo-engineering in a report two years ago. Such technologies “remain largely speculative and unproven, and with the risk of unknown side-effects”, it said.
Who’s right? Is geo-engineering the way to save the planet or a dead end?
And if you have any ideas (zany or not), try them out below: