When it comes to global warming, some scientists are thinking outside the box. Way outside the box. Just in case we can’t cut our greenhouse gas emissions, some researchers think we may be able to prevent the world from heating up by promoting algae growth, planting an artificial forest, opening solar umbrellas, and making man-made volcanoes.

Why are researchers pursuing such creative solutions? According to an article on Wired.com:

"Of course it's desperation," said Stanford University professor Stephen Schneider. "It's planetary methadone for our planetary heroin addiction. It does come out of the pessimism of any realist that says this planet can't be trusted to do the right thing."

Well, maybe it’s not the planet that can’t be trusted, but us humans. So far we haven’t done such a great job of showing that we can cut or slow our greenhouse gas emissions. Despite our best intentions, we still have a long way to go to avoid climate change catastrophe.

Two last-ditch solutions that scientists are looking into are unloading iron into the ocean to promote algae blooms, which absorb carbon dioxide, and “growing” an artificial forest made out of steel that captures and compresses carbon dioxide into a liquid. Other ideas under consideration include constructing a sun shield made up of hundreds of thousands of reflectors or building a sulfur-spewing volcano to reflect the sun’s rays, preventing them from reaching the earth. These ideas haven’t been fully formulated yet for a few reasons:

Scientists in the recent past have been reluctant to consider such concepts. Many fear there will be unintended side effects; others worry such schemes might prevent the type of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are the only real way to fight global warming. These approaches are not an alternative to cutting pollution, said University of Calgary professor David Keith, a top geoengineering researcher.

These solutions aren’t cheap or easy, but they could help hold off warming even if we do manage to cut emissions. So buy your hybrid car now and hope for a gigantic solar umbrella later — but don’t count on it.

Story by Susan Cosier. This article originally appeared in Plenty in March 2007. This story was added to MNN.com in July 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2007.