What if you could build a giant refrigeration unit near the South Pole, pulling harmful carbon dioxide out of the Earth's atmosphere, turning it into snow and burying it underground. Wind turbines would power the chiller plants, converting CO2 from a heat-trapping atmospheric gas to a solid as a way of slowing down climate change.
Of all the greenhouse gases, CO2 is the "control knob" of climate change. There's currently too much of it in our atmosphere, and the more of it that there is, the greater the effects of warming.
It sounds far-fetched, but researchers at Purdue University have put together a plan on how such a device would work.
"It's kind of a novel idea and it's going to take a lot of refrigeration units and a lot of cost," said Ernest Agee, professor earth and planetary sciences at Purdue and author of the paper appearing in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.
Water vapor turns to snow around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but CO2 doesn't switch from gas to solid until it gets down to a chilly -220 degrees Fahrenheit (133 Kelvin). The ambient air temperature in Antarctica can often reach -100 F, which gives the chilling process a head start.