9 Not-So-Crazy Ideas to Combat Climate Change

Close up of a cow chewing grass

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Over the years, scientists have envisioned a few radical, some might even say crazy, ways to combat global warming. With such dire consequences, it's hard to blame them for thinking out of the box. The most outlandish solutions tend to share the implicit notion that it's somehow easier to radically alter the Earth than it is to simply change human behavior. Junk science or necessary action? You decide. Here's our list of the 10 most outlandish ideas for stopping global warming.

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Wrap Greenland in blankets

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Greenland's massive ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt at an increased rate. As a result, the Earth is losing one of its most powerful reflective surfaces. Scientists warn that the process could turn into a dangerous feedback loop, with initial warming prompting changes which escalate the pace of warming. This concern is what led glaciologist Jason Box to propose covering the country of Greenland in white blankets to increase its reflectivity.

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Force-feed plankton blooms

NASA/public domain.

Plankton are one of the most important carbon sinks on Earth. Although they are some of the ocean's smallest organisms, as a group they absorb carbon dioxide by the ton and also produce a significant portion of the Earth's oxygen. Thus, some scientists have proposed placing huge wave-powered pumps on the swells of the Pacific Ocean that would force the nutrient-rich water in the colder depths to mix with the warmer surface waters, essentially acting as a feedlot for large plankton blooms.

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Drop tree bombs

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Some geo-engineers believe we can generate almost-instant forests by dropping "tree bombs" from a plane. The bombs would be packed full of seedlings that are dispersed after they explode on the ground. It may sound outlandish, but this is one idea that has garnered some credibility because it successfully regenerated mangrove forests after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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'Plant' fake trees that absorb carbon

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Imagine artificial trees — made of proprietary absorbent materials that act like real trees in that they remove carbon dioxide from the air — lining congested highways and sucking up the exhaust of passing vehicles. Even better, imagine that the trapped carbon dioxide is sold to soda makers for carbonation. Believe it or not, this is a real proposal envisioned by Global Research Technologies.

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Create man-made volcanoes


The controversial book "SuperFreakonomics" has proposed one of the most outlandish ideas of all. It suggests mimicking the ash-spewing, atmospheric cooling effects of massive volcanic eruptions by attaching several miles of garden hose to a helium balloon and pumping sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere. The sulfur dioxide has the power to essentially block sunlight, thus cooling down the planet.

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Giant orbital sun shield

UA Steward Observatory.

Several scientists have proposed shooting huge mirrors into space to reflect the sun's rays. The mirrors could be as large as the size of Greenland and would act as a shield, blocking out about 2 percent of the sun's light. As to how to get the giant shades into space, that's for NASA to figure out.

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Cloud-making ships

Photo: Royal Society

Puffy, white, low-flying clouds reflect a lot of sunlight, leading a few scientists to suggest making more of them. The best way to do that, according to some, would be to spray seawater high into the sky using specialized ships designed to patrol the oceans. John Latham, a proponent of the idea, thinks it will take a fleet of about 1,500 such ships to do the job correctly, according to research published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A.

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Raise garlic-eating cattle

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Cows and other common livestock release millions of tons of the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere every year. The solution? Some scientists have suggested feeding the world's cattle a bunch of garlic. Garlic is known to kill the methane-producing stomach bacteria that make cow flatulence so deadly. Dealing with the resulting bad cow breath might also require some creative solutions.

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Bury your head in the sand

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Of all the offbeat ideas for avoiding global warming, the worst one is to ignore it. Current atmospheric carbon levels have increased by as much as 35 percent since the age of industrialization. Emissions of carbon dioxide by human activities are today more than 130 times greater than the quantity emitted by volcanoes, amounting to about 27 billion tons per year. If people continue to bury their heads in the sand, it may not be long before some of the outlandish geo-engineering solutions raised in this gallery become necessary.