Geo-engineering – a hundred Dana attendees decide

Tim Fox final by harrietvickers

Myself and fellow Life of Pi blogger Jamie took advantage of the Dana Centre’s ‘generous host’ scheme last week, and took over their cafe for an evening. Conceived after a long afternoon in the pub, we (along with our friend Seil Collins) wanted to explore geo-engineering  – which, how and when of the sometimes sci-fi and far-fetched ideas cropping up in the media could actually be put into practice.

We also decided to borrow the TV show Dragons Den’s format (although this did get less and less overt as our fear of getting sued or at least shouted at by the BBC increased) to give it some pep, steal some of their publicity draw and to let those that turned up know what they’re in for and encourage them to get questioning the science. Plus come on now, we are still students.

Following up an Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) paper on geo-engineering approaches, Tim Fox, IMechE’s Head of Environment and paper lead author, Nem Vaughan, a researcher at UEA, and Lindsey Malcolm, an engineer with IMechE, all braved the stage to pitch artificial trees, biochar and using algae to convert carbon dioxide respectively.

Our scientific experts, Theo Paphitis-style, were tech journo Gareth Mitchell, business development consultant Keith Binding, the Royal Society Policy Centre’s Andy Parker, and climate change philosopher James Garvey.

Two hours and a debate covering the technological, ethical, social and political issues later, we got our game audience to wave around coloured cards in a ready-steady-cook immitation vote. Artificial trees came out on top, though not by a huge margin. IMechE’s vision of the M25 if this idea does get under way is below.

Reproduced with kind permission from IMechE

Reproduced with kind permission from IMechE

I borrowed Tim Fox after the event (me, a bit tired and slow, him, amazingly articulate even after three hours of talk and debate), and asked him to give me a run-down of the approaches IMechE endorses in its report, and why he thought geo-engineering itself had a place in the wider battle against climate change. As above, have a listen for yourself.

You can also read IMechE’s full report here.


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