Geo-engineering is a relatively new branch of engineering and has experienced a recent surge in interest. The field involves the design and implementation of technology for the purpose of influencing the global properties of the planet (also known as planetary engineering.) This is the altering of Earth’s environment in order to make it habitable for life. The biggest aspect of this currently is in reducing the effects of climate change in order to make Earth habitable for the years to come. The definition of Geo-engineering by the National Academy of Sciences is ‘options that would involve large-scale engineering of our environment in order to combat or counteract the effects of changes in atmospheric chemistry.’
Geo-engineering involves the combination of many disciplines which includes the knowledge of scientific principles from atmospheric chemistry and meteorology to ecology and plant biology. Aspects of engineering that are involved are aeronautical engineering, ballistics, naval architecture etc. The whole process also involves important aspects of management and research. It has been shown that the Earth is close to the tipping point of climate change at which time there would be no way back to preventing the decline of
The earth is being constantly warmed by the sun and this is now increased by the rise in green house gases in the atmosphere. There are geo-engineering projects which aim to reduce the amount of sun hitting the surface of the earth. The advantage of doing this rather than reducing greenhouse gases is that it a more immediate effect. Methods to reduce the amount of sun warming the earth include the use of pale coloured roofs and paving, enhancing the reflectivity of clouds, increasing space shade using mirrors or other structures.
The long term alternative to this is the reduction of green house gases which is tackling the problem at the source. There are two ways this can be done, either by directly removing the gases, or by influencing natural processes to remove them indirectly. The main methods are carbon capture and carbon sequestration.
A further idea that is considered a very important aspect of controlling climate change is the minimisation of the loss of the arctic sea. This is important due to the amount of methane, an important greenhouse gas, trapped in the ice and the ice’s function as a reflector of the sunlight.
There has been concern that the development of technology to reduce the impact of climate change may divert governments away from the efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Some of the developments have also shown to be dangerous; one of which is to pour iron filings in the sea in order to encourage the growth of algae but could also cause much damage to marine life and the eco-system. Although there has been much growth in the area of geo-engineering there is still much doubt as to many of the ideas as to their effectiveness, cost and impact on the environment.
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