Sep 24 9:00 PM

Can we engineer our way out of global warming?

The world continues to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the planet continues to heat up. While politicians feverishly debate how to curb this reality, a group of scientists is coming up with a back-up plan.

It’s called "geo-engineering," and in this special report, Popular Science's Jacob Ward takes viewers inside the latest efforts to curb global warming.

One company has developed a machine that can suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Another has developed a process of “cloud brightening,” where particles are sprayed into clouds, making them more reflective of the sun’s heat. And another thinks the solution is a uniform layer of aerosols covering the entire atmosphere of earth.

"I have eight grandchildren and it's very hard to say, look I saw this coming...," says Armand Neukermans, one of the scientists behind the cloud brightener. "And say, well I knew about it but I didn't do anything about it."

But there are also plenty of naysayers. Geo-engineering certainly doesn’t get to the root of the problem: the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into our environment. "I see this as a sort of, ‘In case of emergency, break glass’ kind of thing," says Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology.

Others say tinkering with Mother Nature doesn’t always go as planned, and that the side effects could be potentially disastrous. "I think we need to be careful with geoengineering,” says Melanie Fitzpatrick, a climate scientist with the UCS Climate and Energy Program, “that the cure isn't worse than the disease." 


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