Giant fly-swat shaped “synthetic trees” line the road into the office, where blooms of algae grow in tubes up the walls and the roof reflects heat back into the sky — all reducing the effects of global warming.
All this could be a familiar sight within the next two decades, under proposals devised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to alter the world’s climate with new technology.
A day after John Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Environment Secretary, warned that negotiations for a global deal to cut carbon emissions were in danger of collapsing, the institution is recommending a series of technical fixes to “buy time” to avert dangerous levels of climate change.
It says that the most promising solution is offered by artificial trees, devices that collect CO2 through their “leaves” and convert it to a form that can easily be collected and stored. Tim Fox, head of environment and climate change at the institution, said that the devices were thousands of times more effective at removing carbon from the atmosphere than real trees.
In the first report on such geo-engineering by practising engineers, the institution calculates that 100,000 artificial trees — which could fit into 1,500 acres — would be enough to capture all emissions from Britain’s homes, transport and light industry. It says that five million would do the same for the whole world.
Fox said that prototypes had been shown to work using a technology, developed by Klaus Lackner of Columbia University in New York, that isolated CO2 using low levels of energy. “The technology is no more complex than what is used in cars or air-conditioning units,” he said.