21 November 2009

New Non-Technology Idea for Saving the Planet

The Dirt is an online publication of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

The ideas in the blog entry below are not without controvery, but they are different from most. You can click on the link above to read the entire column. Here are some excerpts -

New Geoengineering Idea: Turning Deserts into Forests
11/20/2009 by asladirt

"Leonard Ornstein, a cell biologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and Igor Aleinov and David Rind, two climate modellers at NASA, argue that foresting the Australian outback and Saharan Desert would solve climate change.

While numerous geoengineering schemes have been proposed to mitigate the adverse effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) build-up, many of the more ambitious ideas, including ocean-based aerosol sprayers, space mirrors, C02 air scrubbers, or artificial C02-capturing trees, have been examined and labeled cost-prohibitive or dangerous (see earlier post).

Others ideas will work, are much cheaper on a small-scale, but require significant investment and regulatory changes to scale up worldwide (see Steven Chu’s call for reflective cool roofs, and more on the idea of creating reflective crops). These researchers, however, argue that massive forestation in equatorial deserts provides the best, near-term route to complete control of greenhouse gas induced global warming, and would be cost-effective in comparison with carbon capture and storage (CCS) plans now receiving massive investment (see earlier post).

The scientists outlined their plan in a recent article in the Journal of Climatic Change. According to The Guardian (UK), the plan would involve planting fields of fast growing trees such as eucalyptus would cover the deserts of the Sahara and Australian outback, watered by seawater treated by a string of coastal desalination plants and channelled through a vast irrigation network. The new blanket of tree cover would bring its own weather system and rainfall, while soaking up carbon dioxide from the world’s atmosphere. The team's calculations suggest the forested deserts could draw down around 8bn tonnes of carbon a year, about the same as emitted from fossil fuels and deforestation today."

What do you think of this idea? Does it make sense to you? Would you support tax dollars being spent on such a hugs reforestation project?

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