E-cars or heat pumps have arrived in everyday life. There are also less well-known, sometimes crazy ideas in the fight against climate change.
On the pulse of the planet – facts and figures on the climate crisis
The global warming caused by us humans is destroying the planet, the effects can be measured in many places. How is this noticeable on your doorstep? Look herethe consequences of climate change in their place of residence. The most important data and background information, updated daily.
1. Sunshades for the Earth
Shielding the planet from sunlight – this approach has been discussed for 50 years. The first topic was sun sails or mirrors in space. Easier to implement, less expensive and therefore more prominent today is the idea of an artificial volcanic eruption: Special aircraft bring the smallest particles into the atmosphere. There they act like a parasol and reflect part of the sunlight back.
What’s the point? Volcanic eruptions can cool down. This was measured in 1991 after Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines. The year after, the global temperature was half a degree lower.
The idea is tested in the laboratory and in computer models. A field test is not yet an issue, because the concerns are huge. So the side effects are difficult to assess: Could the precipitation decrease? In which continents? Etc. Similar concerns also apply to other methods of so-called “geoengineering”, such as the creation of artificial sea clouds to protect against sunlight.
2. Recipe against cow burps
Cows and cattle produce methane during digestion, which they expel into the air when they burp or fart. Methane is a greenhouse gas and is 25 times more harmful to the climate than CO₂. In the future, special feed additives should ensure that ruminants emit less methane.
What’s the point? 9 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by cows. So there is leverage here. And there are promising recipes: A British-Swiss company has developed a feed additive that can reduce methane burping by over 30 percent, depending on the breed of cow.
3. CO₂-Vacuum cleaner for clean air
CO₂ damages the climate – so it is removed from the air again. The captured CO₂ can be reused, for example to make water sparkling. Or it is pumped into the ground and stored for the long term. The ETH spin-off Climeworks is the world leader in CO₂ vacuum cleaners of this type.
What’s the point? The systems work. And make it possible to remove CO₂ that has already been emitted from the cycle. This is important in the fight against climate change, because governments may not be able to reduce their emissions to zero anytime soon.
Climeworks has a first large facility in Iceland. So far, it has extracted a few thousand tons of CO₂ per year. Only: Switzerland alone emits around 45 million tons per year. In order for CO₂ vacuum cleaners to make a real contribution to combating climate change, they would have to be built and operated on a large scale.
4. Air and light for green flying
What’s the point? According to estimates, air traffic is responsible for 3 to 4 percent of global warming. According to forecasts, it is likely to triple in the coming decades. Opportunities for environmentally friendly aviation can therefore be important in the future.
However, synthetic kerosene is currently only produced in very small quantities and is expensive. It is being discussed whether the airlines should commit to mixing quotas. They should replace at least part of the fossil fuel in the next few years.