Climate Change: Desperate Measures

Four Don Quixote-style climate change projects—and how likely they are to succeed.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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While politicians still debate the when and if of climate change, some governments and corporations are already bankrolling massive projects to stave off the catastrophic effects. But are they just global warming boondoggles?

Action

Good Fences? India’s proposed 10-foot-tall, 2,135-mile immigration fence along its eastern border is a top priority now that climate change is threatening poor, crowded Bangladesh. Cost: At least $1 billion

Dam Yangtze. In an effort to keep Beijing and its surrounding provinces from turning into desert, China is redirecting water over 2,000 miles from the Yellow and Yangtze rivers toward the arid north. Cost: At least $37 billion

Move ‘Em Out. In 2008, the president of the Republic of Maldives (average height above sea level: five feet) suggested starting a fund to buy a new homeland for the country’s 400,000 people. Cost: Unknown

Just Desert. A consortium of companies wants to erect huge solar installations and wind turbines in the Sahara to provide most of North Africa’s energy and 15 percent of Europe’s by 2050. Cost: $630 billion

  Divider Lines
 
   
Distraction?

Definitely. There’s no completion date for the fence, much of which runs through remote mountains; patrolling it long term would cost an estimated $149 million per year.

Probably. Diverting water from the polluted Yangtze may lead to higher concentrations of waste, and some usable water will evaporate in transit.

Probably. The plan is unpopular among Maldivians. Earlier this year the president told the New York Times that citizens “would rather die here” than leave their homes.

Probably not. Even if the project falls short, the carbon savings and technological breakthroughs it could foster would make it worthwhile.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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