Scientists at Cambridge University have announced plans for a new unit to explore radical ways of fixing the Earth’s climate.
Refreezing the Earth’s polar regions and “greening” the oceans are among the ideas up for research.
The Centre For Climate Repair is being planned in response to concerns that current efforts to tackle climate change by reducing emissions will not be enough to halt or reverse damage to the environment.
The project is being co-ordinated by Professor Sir David King, the former UK chief scientific adviser and special representative for climate change, who said time “is no longer on our side”.
He said: “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.”
One of the “geoengineering” ideas being considered by scientists is spraying salt water high into the atmosphere to “whiten” clouds in the Arctic region to reflect heat back into space and bring about refreezing.
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 last year, 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% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050.
The IPCC said methods to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere, known as carbon capture, will also be needed.
The proposed Centre For Climate Repair at Cambridge will bring together scientists to identify and examine the best methods.
Dr Emily Shuckburgh, from Cambridge University’s Carbon Neutral Futures Initiative, said: “When considering how to tackle a problem as large, complex and urgent as climate change, we need to look at the widest possible range of ideas and to investigate radical innovations such as those proposed by Sir David.
“In assessing such ideas, we need to explore all aspects, including the technological advances required, the potential unintended consequences and side effects, the costs, the rules and regulations that would be needed, as well as the public acceptability.”
A Government survey released this week suggests public concern about climate change has hit new highs as the issue has risen up the agenda in recent months.
Polling for the Business and Energy Department found four-fifths of people are now fairly or very concerned about climate change, the highest level since the regular survey began in 2012.