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Grab a paintbrush and geo-engineer

In addition to planting fake plastic trees, another simple "geo-engineering" measure, suggests Brad Plumer (via Yglesias), is to "paint all our roofs white, reflecting more of the sun’s heat and cooling the Earth."

This obviously makes sense, and along with other standard home modification measures (solar panels, high-efficiency lighting, etc.), as well as some that are probably more instinctively unpopular -- the fetish of having a perfectly green lawn (and not in the environmental sense) is not lying to die out soon -- painting roofs while is indeed a "total no-brainer" in terms of reducing our environmental impact. The problem, as Matt recognizes, is that the farther that the geo-engineering scale tips toward the drastic (or the ridiculous), the less vigorously politicians feel compelled to push for costly reductions in carbon emissions.

The point of trying to reclaim the term "geo-engineering" from the province of futuristic tubes pumping sulfur dioxide into the air does seem worthwhile. If it's about painting houses, everyone can be a "geo-engineer," and maybe we won't have to worry as much about those rogue environmentalist billionaires.

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Fake earthquake in Lebanon

But worry not, UN peacekeepers were there:

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon today wrapped up a two-day large-scale disaster response exercise, responding to a fictitious earthquake in the south of the country.

The dry run, which the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) conducted with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), tested the forces’ combined reaction to an earthquake with a magnitude of six on the Richter scale.

I suppose that for those who might assume (wrongly, in my opinion) that taking on environmental projects goes beyond peacekeepers' responsibilities, stopping a fake earthquake doesn't sound too impressive. The difference, of course, is that a real earthquake, were one to hit Lebanon, would be all too tangible -- and the benefits of peacekeepers' training all too apparent. The takeaway from environmental projects may not always seem as lifesaving, but it's harder to appreciate their positive impact because they are preventative measures. Kind of like, say, preparing to deal with a large-scale earthquake.

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How many lightbulbs does it take to change global warming?

Well, many. But, according to the S-G, it can make a big difference:

Recently, I visited an ambitious project to promote energy-saving lighting in China. By phasing out old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs and introducing a new generation of lighting, China expects to cut national energy consumption by 8 per cent.

This can have a profound global impact. Consider this: lighting accounts for 19 per cent of world energy consumption. Scientists say we can reduce that by a third or more merely by changing lightbulbs.

Sure, it's one thing to use the nifty-looking CFL bulbs in your own house, but one house times...China...makes for a lot of energy saved.

(image from flickr user TheRogue under a Creative Commons license)

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How to stop desertification?

Build a giant wall.  6,000 kilometers long.  Made out of sand.  Stuck together with bacteria.  No, seriously.

"The threat is desertification. My response is a sandstone wall made from solidified sand," said Mr Larsson, who describes himself as a dune architect.

The sand would be stabilised by flooding it with bacteria that can set it like concrete in a matter of hours.

Take his word for it; he's a dune architect.  And desertification is not something to mess around with.  It's poised to affect over 2 billion people in 140 countries if left unchecked.  But with a gigantic, bacteria-reinforced dune wall, buttressing a "Great Green Belt" of trees, unchecked it will not be.  As long as we can figure out minor details like politics, funding, and where to obtain "giant bacteria-filled balloons."

If this seems similar to ad hoc geo-engineering schemes of righting the climate, well, it does to me, too.  Except that I'm more comfortable building walls to stop desertification than, say, attaching tubes to giant zeppelins that pump the air full of sulfur dioxide to block the sun and cool the planet.

(image from flickr user John Spooner under a Creative Commons license)