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Can Forests of Artificial Trees Stop Global Warming?

trees and turbines

As climate change accelerates, scientists keep coming up with increasingly fanciful schemes to fight it. Earlier this month we took a look at a plan to deploy ships that spray climate change-battling clouds, and now comes word from a study by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers that forests of artificial trees could potentially soak up carbon dioxide.

According to the study, 100,000 synthetic trees spread across the U.K. could remove the CO2 emissions of all cars, trucks and buses in the country. The trees, which are two-thirds as tall as average wind turbines, are coated with materials that absorb CO2. Once the trees capture carbon dioxide, it can be stored underground in empty oil and natural gas reserves.

It’s not a cheap or problem-free plan–each tree costs $24,313. And what happens to the stored CO2 in the event of an earthquake? But the fake trees are thousands of times more efficient at capturing CO2 than those pesky real trees.

IME engineers also recommend lining buildings with CO2-absorbing pots of algae and painting new buildings white to cut the amount of absorbed solar radiation. The Institute is quick to point out that these are temporary solutions to buy us a few more years of problem-solving time. Unfortunately, the general public might not see it that way. If people think that fake trees or pots of algae can solve global warming, they will be much less likely to pay attention to real climate change-fighting initiatives. That’s not to say geoengineering should be discounted, but maybe we should spend more time on long-term solutions and less time thinking of painfully expensive ideas to give us a few more years of safe CO2-spewing.