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Fight Global Warming With This Laser

Global warming continues to be a political hot potato for leaders around the world.

On the one hand, they can’t afford not to address the issue. But on the other, most of them have little idea exactly what to do about it – and, more importantly, how to properly enforce pollution and emissions regulations.

Add in the fact that the global population is getting ever larger – thus putting more strain on natural resources and creating more pollution – and you’ve got a recipe for the problem getting worse, not better.

In September 2014, for example, world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit reiterated the need for urgent action limiting the rise in global temperature to less than two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

But the real task is figuring out how to minimize the greenhouse gas emissions, which cause this gradual increase in the Earth’s atmospheric temperature. Think of gases like carbon dioxide, fluorinated gases, nitrous oxide, and methane.

Fortunately, science has a high-tech solution to a problem that you probably don’t even know exists…

Suffering at the Hands of Humans

It should come as no surprise that carbon dioxide is the main Earth-killing greenhouse gas, accounting for 82% of U.S. emissions in 2012.

And as you can see, our human activities account for this pollution, with electricity leading the pack ahead of transportation and industry.

Total U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2012; Source of U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions

So how do we tackle this growing problem?

The UN Takes Action… Kind Of

At the UN Climate Summit, “Several European countries announced that they would pursue the target of 40% greenhouse gas reductions over 1990 levels.”

As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it, “This Summit was not about talk. History is made by action. And now, we have seen that the world is ready to act.”

When it comes to the UN, it’s often a case of “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But among their efforts to address climate change, developing countries emphasized initiatives to protect and expand their forests.

To help them, the United States (plus other Western nations) will give developing countries millions of dollars in order to jump-start programs that’ll reduce tropical deforestation. And more funds are on the horizon.

As good as this all sounds, though, it seems that the media has sold the world on the concept that expanding forests will solve the COissue we face.

More Trees = Healthier Planet: True or False?

According to The New York Times, “Deforestation accounts for about 20% of global emissions of carbon dioxide. The assumption is that planting trees and avoiding further deforestation provides a convenient carbon capture and storage facility on the land.”

But climate scientists have proved that this commonly accepted wisdom is indeed false. Ironically, adding large amounts to forests can actually make global warming worse.

How? The sun’s energy.

You see, the Earth’s surface absorbs and reflects the sun’s energy.

Scientists have concluded that while planting more trees in the tropics would cause cooling, doing the same in colder regions would have an adverse effect. The dark color of trees would actually absorb the sun’s energy, causing the planet’s temperature to rise.

But what if there were a failsafe way to measure how much CO2 trees can soak up and hold before emitting it back into the atmosphere?

That’s where this radical technology comes in…

Just Laser the World Back to Health

Remarkably, part of the process to gauge how much CO2 trees can absorb involves actually chopping them down.

Yeah… I know… seems totally counterproductive to me, too.

But Dr. Mathias Disney of University College London says his 3-D laser-scanning technology can weigh the trees – thus measuring their CO2 content… sans the destructive alternative.

“If you’ve got the tree volume and the tree density, you can estimate the mass of the trees. And so essentially what you can do is you can use the laser scanning to weigh trees.”

Check it out below…


The best thing about it: Two minutes will buy you one complete 360-degree scan. From there, the data collected can generate a three-dimensional portrait of a forest, with great precision.

And while the technology is still being tested, scientists hope that it’ll eliminate uncertainty in these carbon stock estimates, thus enabling more effective plans of action.

After all, how can we fix a problem if we have yet to accurately measure it?

Where innovation meets investing,

Nikia Wade

Nikia Wade

, Technology Correspondent

View More By Nikia Wade