by Aadita Chaudhury
Technology & Engineering subject editor
This past Monday marked the 44th annual celebration of what has been popularized around the world as Earth Day. With climate change emerging as a key scientific and social problem of the 21st century, some scientists, engineers and policy makers are starting to consider geoengineering as a climate change mitigation strategy.
Renewable resources, such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal and nuclear energies, aim to curb carbon emissions by replacing fossil fuel infrastructure to some extent. Geoengineering strategies, however, try to reduce the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels and resulting warming temperatures without changing much of the existing infrastructure.
One of the major geoengineering strategies that has been proposed is carbon sequestration, capture and storage (CCS). This technology comes in a few varieties, but the basic principle remains the same: atmospheric carbon is collected in storage units (often underground) to lower global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Proponents of this technology claim that, with the help of these technologies, global carbon dioxide levels could be brought down to desirable levels even with the continued use of fossil fuels.
These solutions, however lucrative, still have significant drawbacks. CCS technologies have been criticized for their potentially undesirable effects on groundwater and subsurface environments,, including increased acidity, negative impacts on the soil nutrient profiles, and adverse effects on groundwater chemistry.
There are also a variety of more ambitious – and perhaps even somewhat extreme – geoengineering solutions that focus on reducing rising average temperatures by modifying incoming solar radiation. These strategies involve anything from covering much of the earth’s surface with white exteriors to reflect incoming sunlight back to space, to mounting giant mirrors in synchronous orbit around the earth to redirect sunlight from space. The socioeconomic acceptability of these more grandiose strategies, as with CCS, is far from universal. Hence, moving from conventional energy to renewable resources remains the single most viable strategy to combat climate change.
How do you think technology and engineering can help battle our ongoing climate woes? Share in the comments below.
For more on Earth Day itself, see these posts from the past week on the Science Borealis feed:
- Steph Taylor at Eight Crayon Science considers Earth Day’s usefulness in tackling greenhouse gas emissions.
- The Nature Conservancy of Canada addresses the importance of urban forests and gives us a quick glimpse of items found during Ean arth day cleanup.
- Elisabeth Kosters at Earth Science Society continues her Canadian Earth Science primer for the Prime Minister, with a discussion of Klondike gold and ice ages.
- Finally, Sarah Boon offers up timely post on the role of scientists in environmental protection with a post titled: What’s an environmental scientist to do?
The latest technology & engineering posts from the Science Borealis feed include:
- The Saskatchewan Research Council on improving the reliability of wind turbines with more effective storage technologies. Often, a variety of alternative energy technologies are touted to be less than dependable because of difficulties and storage and transportation. In this post, how some of these challenges are addressed for wind energy are discussed.
- The Theory, Evolution and Games Group with a great discussion on how cross-validation using statistics and experimental design can be applied to pure, applied, and social sciences.
Elsewhere on the web:
- The 25th anniversary of the Nintendo Gameboy. Perhaps first in the technology of portable gaming, the Nintendo Gameboy has changed what gaming could look like for future generations.
- A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has successfully soft-landed on Earth. This could drastically reduce the cost of spaceflight and help rockets land on Mars.
What news in the world of technology and engineering has caught your eye this month? Let us know in the comments below or better yet, post your blog to Science Borealis!