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‘Time is no longer on our side’: Cambridge scientists to test radical ways to stop climate change

The University of Cambridge is launching a new research lab to explore radical ways of fixing the Earth’s climate.

The new centre is being established in response to concerns current efforts to tackle climate change by reducing emissions will not be enough to halt or reverse damage to the environment.

The Centre for Climate Repair project is being coordinated by Sir David King, a former chief scientific adviser to the government, who said time “is no longer on our side”.

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“What we continue to do, what we do that is new, and what we plan to do over the next 10 to 12 years will determine the future of humanity for the next 10,000 [years],” he said.

Refreezing the Earth’s polar regions and removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere are among the bold ideas being proposed for research. Known as geoengineering , such futuristic techniques could become a reality if scientists manage to figure out a way of implementing them.

CLIMATE CHANGE FACT: Earth could warm by six degrees this century. The Earth's temperature will continue to rise so long as we continue to produce greenhouse gases. The estimates for how much temperatures will increase by 2100 range from two degrees Celsius to as much as six degrees Celsius.

One idea being considered by scientists is spraying salt water high into the atmosphere to “whiten” clouds in the Arctic region in order to reflect heat back into space.

Another proposal is “re-greening” and “greening” areas of the planet with vegetation, on sea and on land, to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

In October the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that changes on an unprecedented scale would be needed by society to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The panel said countries need to cut carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and to net zero by 2050, with steep cuts in other greenhouse gases such as methane. The IPCC said methods to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere, known as carbon capture, will also be needed.

A poll by YouGov at the time found that a majority of Britons would be happy to reduce their consumption of resources to slow or halt the negative effects of climate change.

One in three preferred an approach that relies on technological solutions to counter climate change.

Eleven of the last twelve years (1995 -2006) rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature since 1850.

Additional reporting by Press Association