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5 of the Most Outlandish Ideas to Fight Climate Change

From using mechanical trees to dimming the sun, researchers are getting creative to fight climate change.

By Sara Novak
Apr 27, 2023 6:00 PM
Landscape of timber pathway with the changing environment in the modern city


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When it comes to fighting climate change, the more ideas, the better. While these creative solutions may at first seem rash, if there were ever a time to welcome creative and even crazy ideas, now would be it.

Here are a few of the most surprising ideas scientists have thought of to combat climate change.

 1. Mechanical Trees

What do you do when you don’t have real trees? You plant fake ones, of course. Klaus Lackner, a professor of engineering, has invented a mechanical tree that’s designed to capture carbon. According to Arizona State University, once complete, the tree will be 33 feet high, designed to capture ambient carbon from the air. The tree would be passive and able to quietly and cost-efficiently capture carbon, just like a real tree. 

The first tree, which sits on Arizona State University’s campus, will capture 200 pounds of carbon per day, and Lackner hopes to scale the technology so that “tree farms” can capture up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon daily.

Read More: We Can't Just Plant Billions of Trees to Stop Climate Change

2. Building Underwater Walls to Block Glaciers

As warm ocean water bumps up against glaciers, it melts them away at an alarming rate. That’s why some scientists have suggested building underwater walls to protect glaciers from this increasingly warm water. The size of the wall would depend on the size of the glacier, according to a March 2018 study published in the journal Nature

For example, the Greenland glacier would require a 3-mile long and 350 feet high wall. “We believe that geoengineering glaciers on a similar scale could delay significant amounts of Greenland and Antarctica’s ground ice from reaching the sea for centuries, buying time to address global warming,” write the study authors.

Read More: 20 Things You Didn't Know About Glaciers

 3. Dimming the Sun

Researchers at Harvard University have toyed with the idea of dimming the sun’s rays with calcium carbonate as one of the ways to combat climate change. It would act like an antacid for the atmosphere, cooling things down. The Harvard researchers’ plan will release calcium carbonate into the atmosphere via airplanes in the stratosphere to see how well they reflect the sun’s light. 

According to an August 2018 study published in the journal Nature, the aerosols would mimic the sun shading effects of volcanoes because after large volcanic eruptions like El Chichón and Mount Pinatubo, for example, the earth is known to go through a period of cooling due to the reduced quantity of sunlight. 

Read More: 5 of the Most Explosive Volcanic Eruptions

4. Spraying Arctic Ice with Glass

The California-based Arctic Ice Project has an innovative idea — to spray a thin layer of hollow glass microspheres (HGM) atop the Arctic ice to enhance its ability to reflect the sun’s radiation. The thinking is that this thin layer of glass would protect the younger ice that’s highly susceptible to melting until it grew into more mature “highly reflective multiyear ice.” 


According to the group, “[t]he deployment of HGM technology in strategic Arctic locations could provide an additional decade or more for the world to decarbonize before the worst impacts of climate change are realized and become irreversible.”

Read More: Arctic Sea Ice Retreat Worse Than Previously Thought

5. An Ultra White Cooling Paint

Researchers at Purdue University have come up with a crazy idea to combat climate change — painting everything bright white. Their new ultra-white paint is more than 98 percent reflective, which allows it to keep hot surfaces cooler for longer periods of time. 

Scientists contend that painting 1,000 square feet of a surface with this paint could have a cooling power of 10 kilowatts. According to the World Economic Forum, in cities that are heating up at alarming rates, this paint may help cool things down a bit, at least for a while.

Read More: Debunking 3 Common Climate Change Myths

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