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Five climate megaprojects that might just save the world

From solar power stations in space to stabilising melting glaciers, some researchers are proposing extremely ambitious and risky projects to fight climate change. Could they work?

By Jon Cartwright, Alison George, Joshua Howgego, Stuart Clark and Nicola Jones

13 March 2024

Wireless power from space


WHEN it comes to fighting climate change, many strategies require relatively small actions from large numbers of people. It is about millions of us installing heat pumps, switching to electric vehicles, eschewing meat in our diets and so on. But given the sheer scale of the challenge, there are those who insist we need to think bigger and bolder too.

They are talking about audacious infrastructure projects that would cost billions and carry high risks, but could, if they work out, have a truly transformative impact on our stuttering efforts to get carbon emissions down to zero – and even mitigate the worst effects of current warming. They include plans to build a huge solar power station in space, regreen vast swathes of desert and prop up melting glaciers to hold back city-threatening sea level rise.

Here, we examine five of the most promising green megaprojects, weighing up their prospects and exploring what would need to happen next to make good on them. Realistically, what kind of impact could they have? And can we really pull them off?

Launch a solar power station into space

Clouds may be a source of inspiration for poets and romantics, but for solar power engineers, they are nothing but a nuisance. No matter how efficient the solar panel, when the sky clouds over, power output drops to nearly nothing. Move that solar panel into space, however, and this problem disappears. In orbit, a satellite can bask in the perpetual glow of sunlight and generate electricity at maximum capacity nearly all the time.…

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