NOVA researches new climate technologies to cool the planet

As wildfires burn and extreme weather causes public unrest, it is clear that reducing emissions alone will not be enough to prevent the disastrous consequences of climate change. NOVA joins scientists and engineers working on new solutions to climate change that could help us cool the globe.

Experts believe that limiting the entry of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere is the first step towards cooling the planet. At the same time, we can figure out how to get rid of it.

Throughout the special, viewers learn about the different ways scientists and engineers are trying to tackle carbon, including:

Jan Wurzbacher of Climeworks, whose industrial fans suck CO2 from the air.

Aldo Steinfeld of ETH Zurich, whose technology creates liquid carbon from sunlight and air.

Sandra Snæbjörnsdóttir of CarbFix, who works to turn captured CO2 into stone.

Apoorv Sinha of Carbon Upcycling Technologies, which works to recycle atmospheric CO2 to reduce the carbon footprint of concrete.

Even at their full potential, these new technologies could only offset a fraction of global emissions. If we can’t reduce our carbon emissions fast enough, are there technologies that can offer protection against extreme climate risks?

One method scientists are exploring is to change the planet’s reflectivity, making Earth colder, for example, by brightening clouds so they reflect more heat back into space. Sarah Doherty and Arman Neukermans of the Marine Cloud Brightening Project propel salt water particles into the sea clouds, causing the clouds to reflect more heat. Harvard’s David Keith and Frank Keutsch take it a step further by exploring whether adding reflective particles to the stratosphere could cool the entire planet.

With so much uncertainty surrounding this new technology, some scientists believe it is better to invest in proven machines designed by nature – trees. NASA research scientist Lola Fatoyinbo-Agueh uses ground and space lasers to measure the amount of carbon stored in forests. A team from ETH Zurich’s Crowther Lab is using artificial intelligence to identify where forests may be expanding and determine how much CO2 could be absorbed.

Whendee Silver is studying how to turn agricultural waste into compost, thereby reducing methane emissions and increasing carbon uptake in the soil. With no single solution and accelerating climate change, public demand for alternative solutions is growing. Technologies once considered too futuristic or taboo are entering the mainstream; it is essential that we assess each with optimism for the potential they offer…and caution for the risks they carry.

Summary of news:

  • NOVA researches new climate technologies to cool the planet
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