Friday, February 2, 2018

Geoengineering Earth's Climate

This has been a crazy winter. One day it's in the 50s (Fahrenheit) and the next it's 16. Or 4 degrees which, with windchills, starts feeling like minus 20! In short, this is perfect weather for hunkering down with hot coffee and a book about climate change.

Geoengineering Climate Change
by Jennifer Swanson
96 pages; ages 8-12
Twenty-First Century Books, 2017

Floods! Tornadoes! Super-hurricanes! Blizzards! Wildfires! Mudslides! These weather events and catastrophes have been increasing in the past couple decades and are related to climate change caused by a warming earth. Most scientists agree that human activity - primarily burning fossil fuels - is responsible. And of we don't take action to prevent further warming, we'll see even more drastic changes.

What can we do? The most obvious solution would be to stop burning fossil fuels. But some engineers propose we tackle the problem with ... engineering. The propose constructing large-scale technologies to counteract climate change. Installations that would physically remove carbon from the air, or sequester carbon somehow. Some engineers propose crating artificial clouds to shade the earth, or send mirrors into space to reflect sunlight. Or shooting salt into clouds to make it rain.

Sounds farfetched, right? But scientists and agencies are already studying whether cloud-seeding is an effective way of manipulating where and when rain or snow falls. The problem: seeding clouds in one place can result in rain miles away, where it's not needed. Still, China used cloud-seeding to maintain clear skies for the 2008 Olympics, Swanson writes.

As for carbon sequestration - why not simply plant more trees, and protect forests from clear-cutting? The amount of trees cut every year in tropical rainforests would, if left in place, absorb up to 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Left in place they also protect against erosion and provide habitat. There are other, less technical "engineered" solutions, too. Painting roads and rooftops white would reflect the sun's rays. Planting more trees along roadways would shade and offer flood mitigation.

Swanson notes there are some sustainable things we can do right now to help mitigate climate change. In addition to planting trees we can insulate our homes and schools so they require less energy to heat and cool. We can conserve the energy we use by driving less, sharing rides, walking, and riding bikes. We can promote local renewable energy projects. And a big one: use less plastic. That's because the production of plastic uses fossil fuels.

Back matter includes a great list of books for further reading and websites where you can learn more about projects around the world.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - Review copy from the publisher

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