A Short Cut Back To 1750?

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 5 2011 @ 6:43pm

Clare Heyward thinks through the implications of Libya's proposal at the climate change conference in Durban to reverse global warming by turning the Sahara into a massive wind and solar farm. Here's the somewhat Qaddafi-like proposal for

dozens of enormous greenhouse-like structures up to 15km in diameter built across the Sahara and Arabian deserts. Each would suck in air, that would be heated and then escape at high speed through large venting towers.

This “conversion of daylight into steady winds” would, he said, power rings of wind turbines that would, with the help of a huge global network of electricity connectors, generate enough power to end the world’s reliance on traditional fossil fuels.

Plausible in any way?

It is not obviously an attempt at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (carbon dioxide removal, or CDR),  nor a method which seeks to hold global temperatures steady regardless of increases in atmospheric GHGs, known as solar radiation management (SRM).  It is mitigation, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, but on an almost unimaginably vast scale – planetary engineering, if you like.

My own view is that some kind of massive bio-engineering like this will likely be humankind's ultimate way of grappling with the stress our mass consumerism is placing on the planet. But like Heyward, I remain utterly unable to judge if something on this scale is possible.