By Syed Akbar
Injecting sulphur into the sky
What's the colour of the sky? Blue, of course. But if global warming turns worse shooting up temperatures, mankind may have to explore this option to keep the human planet cool: Inject sulphur into the sky. Temperatures will come down, but the sky will change its colour. May be to yellow. No matter how the sky appears, it will halt climate change.
Scientists the world over are now giving a deep thought to injecting sulphur or "global dimming" after Australian scientist Tim Flannery proposed this radical solution, which may no longer keep the sky blue.
According to him, climate change is taking place so fast that we may have to pump sulphur into the atmosphere if we want to survive on the earth. Sulphur when injected in its gaseous form into the earth's stratosphere will help prevent harmful sun rays from falling on us. It will also slow down global warming.
Flannery is confident that this technology will become a reality in the next five years. The process is quite simple. Add sulphur to the fuel of jet engines or aeroplanes. Since the exhaust contains sulphur, it will settle down in the stratosphere, reflecting back the sunlight.
As Flannery argues, adding sulphur to the atmosphere should be the last barrier to climate collapse.
Sulphur emissions through automobiles may have been harmful for human and animal health. But this pollutant may become a saviour of mankind, if scientists like Flannery have their way.
Feed the sea with iron
Human health and iron are synonymous. Iron keeps us alive by fixing atmospheric oxygen to the blood. In fact, our blood gets is red colour because of the presence of iron.
Now two different batches of marine biologists from the University of Hawaii and Oregon State University are exploring methods to feed the sea with iron. Not to boost its strength, but to save humanity from imminent fallout of global warming and climate change.
Dr Brian von Herzen of The Climate Foundation strongly believes that iron could play a major role in the blooming of phyto and zoo plankton. The blooming plankton will help in obsorption of a large quantity of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus bringing down the over all temperatures on the blue planet.
The plankton are capable of utilising large quantities of CO2 through photosynthesis. Aquatic plankton, particularly, phyto plankton, are known to obsorb many times more carbon dioxide than plants and trees that grow on the land. Just have a small bloom of phyto plankton through iron feeding and this simply equals the task of planting trees on scores of acres of land.
Oceanographers and marine biologists already know that iron will help in plankton bloom. The plankton works in several ways. After obsorbing the harmful CO2 from the atmosphere, it stores the gas in its cells. As the plankton dies it settles down in the ocean's bed, safely carrying the carbon dioxide. A bloom in plankton also means more aquatic life as many marine animals including fish feed on them.
The formula works well in oceanic areas where there's iron deficiency. Who said, oceans and seas are not anaemic, like we humans?
Space Umbrellas to the rescue
We have heard our leaders urging us to come under one umbrella. Though it's not literally possible for all to come under one single umbrella, geo-engineers believe it could be possible, scientifically.
Yes, these geo-engineers, a new breed of scientists who want to tinker with the Nature to save mankind from global warming and the resultant climate change, have conceptualised what they call space umbrellas to bounce back the harmful radiation from the sun.
Scientists from the University of Arizona argue that space umbrellas will gradually reduce earth's temperature, and thus the harmful effects of global warming.
The university wants to launch a trillion tiny umbrellas or sunshields into the outer space. Each umbrella will be a small, light spacecraft, weighing about a gram. It carries a sunshade with a diametre of 30 cms. When such mini space umbrellas come together, they act as a sunscreen, filtering harmful radiation.
The area such a sunscreen each covers will extend to one lakh square km. These umbrellas will hover around the earth at a safe distance of 15 lakh km. The geo-engineers believe that such mini space umbrellas will reduce the sunlight's intensity by 1.8 per cent, sufficient to fight global warming.
The university group, which is working on the model, says it could happen by 2035.
Power from snow
With the threat of global warming looming large on the future of humanity, environmentalists feel that snow-fed rivers can be easily tackled to generate electricity.
Most of the hydroelectricity plants in the world are located on rivers fed by rains. Since monsoons have been playing truant of late, upsetting the calculations of planners, eco-experts suggest that it's high time policy- makers turned their attention to rivers fed by glaciers and snow.
While rivers fed on rains in their catchment are seasonal, those securing supplies from snow-covered mountains and glaciers are perennial. The runoff from snow-fed rivers is comparatively quite high. If these rivers are harvested for hydel power, the dependence on thermal energy will gradually come down. This will ultimately check rising temperatures because of carbon emission from thermal energy plants.
As senior environmentalist R Ravi put its, India have a vast potential of energy generation from snow. All the rivers in the north India are fed by snow melt. If mini hydel plants are set up, the energy crisis in the country can easily be overcome.
Also experts in global warming warn of snow and glacial melt if carbon emissions are not checked. The time is now apt to act. Before the snow melts under influence of global warming, we should set up hydel plants all along the snow-fed rivers.
Chimneys that cool the earth
Ever heard of a chimney that's cool to touch. While conventional chimneys attached to our kitchen and industries are hot with pollutants loaded with carbondioxide and carbon monoxide and other gases, scientists in the United States have patented a chimney that consumes internal energy and reduces temperatures, thus keeping the earth cool.
The latest chimney device for houses and industries is being touted as one of the simple tools to fight global warming.
This patented chimney will also induce water precipitation and produces electricity. It helps in climate control, production of fresh water and energy that's needed to keep the house and industry cool. When set up in large numbers, such devices will ultimately bring down the global temperatures.
It sucks in warm air from the earth surface and lifts it to a height. Later, it expels the air into the upper atmosphere. The lifting of warm air to higher altitude causes the atmosphere to shed some of its heat. This keeps the earth cool.
"When the air is expelled from the chimney, it is oversaturated with water vapors. Therefore, when it mixes with surrounding air and cools down, water naturally precipitates causing precipitation in the surrounding area. The amount of that precipitation can be substantial enough to sustain agriculture in areas such as deserts," claim the inventors.
Bomb that explodes greenery
After nuclear bombs and human bombs, it's the turn of tree bombs. Unlike the nuclear one, the tree bomb does not cause destruction. It resurrects the barren earth with greenery.
The tree bomb is now seen as the simplest way of greening the deforested and barren lands to fight rising temperatures. US scientists have already trial tested the tree bomb in Louisiana mangrove forests after the Hurricane Katrina left a trail of destruction there.
Depleting forest wealth in the world can be checked through these tree bombs. Seedlings are dropped in a wax canister full of fertiliser. On hitting the ground, it explodes exposing the seeds, which later germinate. The growth rate here is faster than conventional manual planting of saplings.
Senior marine biologist D Srinivas says tree bombs can be used in mangrove forests in Krishna, Coringa and Sundarbans, the only forests in India where mangroves grow.
"It works with all types of trees. We can carpet bomb with plants of all types in denuded lands to regrow the greenery," he says. In deserts and sandy tracts like Rajasthan, xerophytes and other trees like phoenix and dates can be planted on a massive level using the technology.