A Quick Guide to Geoengineering

Geoengineering schemes are designed to act against the effects of climate change, often by reducing CO2 levels from the air or the amount of sunlight that reaches the planet’s surface.

Some believe geoengineering is set to become essential to the world if it wants to avoid the worst effects that climate change can bring. Others claim that the concept isn’t realistic and is being used a as a distraction from reducing emissions.

The first category of the scheme is reducing CO2 levels from the air by using machines, which are often known as artificial trees, to pull the gas from the atmosphere using plastic polymers. Other suggestions for geoengineering include increasing the amount of CO2 levels that are absorbed by the ocean by adding large quantities of lime to the water.

Other related schemes that are not always referred to as geoengineering involve joining a large volume of trees and plants to absorb CO2 from the air. Others include burning a large quantity of wood with carbon, making and burying large quantities of charcoal to lock carbon into the soil and grazing cattle in certain ways.

The second category of the scheme involves reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth. This is proposed to be completed by firing sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect the sunlight back to space, using unmanned ships to increase above-ocean cloud cover, painting the roofs of houses white to increase reflectivity and floating thousands of mirrors in space between the Earth and the Sun.

Some of the geoengineering schemes have been heavily criticised, for example firing aerosols into the stratosphere. There are several possible side effects that come with this, and many people think that this is masking the temperature rise rather than removing CO2 levels, and therefore do not affect ocean acidification.

Other geoengineering schemes are less debated, since they all aim to remove the pollutant CO2 that is being added to the air by life on Earth. The main challenges these schemes face is reducing costs to make the devices practical, whilst also finding a reliable and inexpensive way to store the extra gas.

If you would like to find out more information about geoengineering or would like to pursue a career in the engineering industry, we can help. We have provided work-based learning in engineering for over 40 years and would love to help forward your career.

For more information, feel free to get in touch with a member of the GET team via our contact page or by calling us on 01452 423461.