The power of 10: Helping to counter global warming
These scientific advances could help counter global warming, as could the gadgets and suggested life changes outlined below
Sunday 06 December 2009
1. The artificial tree that captures carbon dioxide 1,000 times faster than a real tree. Developed by researchers at Columbia University, the tree, which resembles a cylinder, absorbs carbon dioxide and then releases it in a technique – called gas absorption – similar to a sponge that collects water. One tree can collect one ton of CO2 a day, the equivalent of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by 20 cars. But each synthetic tree costs £15,000 to make and millions would be needed just to offset the emissions of Britain's cars.
2. Injecting the air with particles to reflect sunlight. It may be possible to inject artificial sulphate particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight – but the theory does not address ocean acidification caused by rising CO2 levels and there could be side effects such as acid rain.
3. Creating low clouds over the oceans. Increasing the Earth's albedo, or reflectivity to sunlight, by pumping water vapour into the air to stimulate cloud formation over the sea. This could involve a fleet of ships spraying salt water to increase the density of clouds by raising the concentration of water droplets within them.
4. Mixing the deep water of the ocean. James Lovelock, working with Chris Rapley of the Science Museum in London, devised a plan to put giant tubes into the seas to take surface water rich in dissolved CO2 to lower depths where it will not surface. The idea is to take CO2 out of the short-term carbon cycle, cutting the gas in the atmosphere.
5. Giant mirrors in space. Deflect sunlight with a giant mirror (pictured right) or a fleet of small mirrors between the Earth and the Sun. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that 1 per cent of reflected sunlight could make up for 400 years of man made emissions into the atmosphere.
6. Planetary skin. A global "nervous system" that will integrate land, sea, air and space-based sensors, helping the public and private sectors to make decisions to prevent and adapt to climate change. The pilot project – a prototype is due by 2010 – will track how much carbon is held by rainforests and where.
7. Earth sunglasses. Arizona University astronomer Roger Angel suggests using electro-magnetically powered spacecraft to blast trillions of ultra-thin silicon lenses into space to deflect the sun's rays. Once in place, they would create a 100,000 square mile sunshade, reducing the sun's rays by about 2 per cent.
8. Smoke filters. Superfilters fitted to factory smokestacks can turn pollution into harmless baking soda. Plastic mesh filters being tested on the smokestacks of Texas power plants trap 90 per cent of the carbon dioxide emitted which, when mixed with sodium hydroxide, is turned into sodium bicarbonate.
9. Mirrors in the desert. The amount of sunlight reflected back into the sky naturally averages 30 per cent — but in areas covered by snow or ice, it's a healthy 90 per cent. But the ice caps are melting fast. To counter this, say scientists, we would need to lay vast sheets of reflective material across 1.2 million square miles of the Sahara desert, at a cost of £20bn over 10 years.
10. Wave-riding rubber tubes. The Anaconda is a 200m-long tube, 5.5m in diameter, that could turn wave power into a commercially viable option. As each wave hits the front of the tube, a pulse is created in the water inside. This is forced down the tube by the wave, ultimately powering a turbine in the "tail" of the tube to generate electricity. Each tube could generate enough power for more than 1,000 houses. If the company secures the £17m it needs for a prototype, it hopes to have the first full-size Anaconda ready by 2014. The ultimate goal is to create farms of about 50 tubes in west-facing coastal areas of Britain.
10 green gadgets : Fridges, phones & a wind-up torch
1. EnergyHub Dashboard
Can let you know exactly how much energy household appliances are using and how much it's costing you. It can also turn appliances on and off and adjust temperatures.
2. Magnetic fridge
Whirlpool is developing a new type of fridge that is based on magnetic refrigeration technology. When the magnetic field is removed, the materials will cool below their original temperature.
3. Carbon-neutral phone
Motorola launched the Moto W233 earlier this year, claiming it is the world's first carbon-neutral phone. The plastic is from recycled water bottles and the company offsets carbon emissions involved in the manufacture.
4. Green computer
Fit-PC 2.0 claims to be the world's greenest PC. Manufacturers say it uses 90 per cent less energy than a standard desktop PC, and less power than a low-energy lightbulb.
5. Ego Street Scoota
Electric scooter travels up to 30 miles at 30mph, and produces no emissions.
6. Brunton SolarRoll
A portable solar panel that rolls up like a towel and can charge laptops and phones.
7. Green satnav
Enter details about your car and it'll give you a route that's best for fuel consumption, and also advise on gear and accelerator usage.
8. ECO Showerdrop Meter
A low-cost universal shower meter (left) that lets you know how much water you are using. A family of four could save £180 a year and more than 600kg of CO2.
9. Siemens WM14S79B Washing Machine
Uses HydroSensor technology to check how hot the wash should be and if the water can be used again.
10. Puma wind-up torch
No batteries required for a beam strong enough to light an area up to 30m away.
10 ways to change your life: No kids, no meat, no flights
1. Don't have kids – or at least stop at two. Continuous population growth – it is predicted that there will be between 8 billion and 10 billion people on the planet by 2050 – is multiplying the impacts of climate change.
2. Stop taking short-haul flights – a major source of carbon emissions that has grown with the advent of budget flights – and go by train instead.
3. Drive fewer than five miles a week. Try walking instead of driving to replace one short car journey a week. Or get a bike.
4. Give up meat Cutting out meat consumption on one day a week can have a major impact on reducing CO2 emissions – with global livestock production accounting for at least 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
5. Insulate your home If every household in the UK had 270mm loft insulation, it would save the equivalent of the annual emissions of three and a half large gas-fired power stations.
6. Switch off appliances when you are not using them. Leaving household appliances on standby costs about £800m a year in the UK alone.
7. Recycle and reuse as much as possible. And eat up your leftovers: the average UK household spends £424 a year on food that goes straight in the bin.
8. Shop low carbon Go for products with a low carbon footprint. Look out for the Carbon Trust's Carbon Reduction Label, which shows the footprint of various products.
9. Go for a green TV The Sony KDL-40WE5 saves 50 per cent of the power compared with one of the company's standard models, and has a presence sensor that detects when you leave the room and it then switches the screen off.
10. Boost your radiators A small fan can capture the heat from the back of your radiator and circulate it back into the room. A radiator booster could save an average household £70-£140 per year.
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