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Engineering solutions to climate change not ideal, but worth studying

Michelle Udem

Issue date: 2/6/09 Section: Opinion
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The university community is currently scrambling for innovative ideas and tactics to win RecycleMania, the 10-week competition I wrote about in my last column. RecycleMania focuses on recycling and waste reduction, but other strategies exist to tackle climate change, namely engineering and scientific solutions. These may not be the most ideal solutions, considering anthropogenic actions are the main cause of climate change, but they are creative and worth studying.

The website lists feasible climate engineering plans, most of which work by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or reflecting solar energy back into space. Either approach would lower global temperatures.

One way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would be to plant extensive forests. This may not sound like the most feasible or economical plan, but it does come with several benefits: the trees would absorb carbon dioxide, and we could potentially gain more weekend relief from urban pressures. Turning agricultural waste into charcoal and then burying it would achieve the same goal, plus it would be cheap and low-tech and would fertilize the soil. Both of these ideas work with the environment by manipulating our natural resources without drastically altering other aspects of the environment.

"Scrubbing" carbon dioxide out of the air and then storing it underground is another method for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. "Scrubbing" involves isolating carbon dioxide from the other gases emitted after combustion in a power plant. Storing carbon dioxide underground, however, would not have the same benefits as storing agricultural waste underground; it would merely turn air pollution into terrestrial pollution.

Space mirrors in Earth's orbit, clouds of sulfur particles, and ground-based reflectors have been considered as energy reflective strategies. Any of these methods would reflect solar energy back into space, but it has not been proven that they would actually decrease greenhouse gases. Energy reflective methods simply lessen the warming effect on Earth by reducing the amount of solar energy trapped near the surface.
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In This Issue


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  • Have you heard about Case Kung Fu?
  • Summer crime wave rocks Case Western campus
  • USG Briefs


  • Pro football players setting a poor example
  • Pro Sports
  • Summer Recap
  • Team optimistic after last year's 20-win season

Fun Page

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  • Killer Sudoku Solution
  • Maze Solution


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  • Editorial: Campus security a shared responsibility
  • State your case photos: what is your greatest fear?
  • With limited means, "third-world" countries need global environmental support


  • Case by Case: The myriad benefits of being involved on campus
  • Eric Hutchinson, Leah Lou bring personality, enthusiasm to annual Welcome Back Concert; attract large turnout
  • The Buzz
  • Two obsessive concertgoers share unique summertime experiences in different locations
  • Two obsessive concertgoers share unique summertime experiences in different locations

Cross Country

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  • Whalen keys football's upswing


  • More firsts in sight for Spartans
  • Rebuild or Rebound?

Spartan Spotlight

  • Spartan Spotlight: Kyle Bednar

Worst Case Scenario

  • Worst Case Scenario
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