Terraforming the Northern Sahara Will Save the World

Guest CliFi by Gregory J. Rummo

Laayoune, Western Sahara
February 16, 2025 – on my birthday in the not-too-distant future

A cool, slightly fragrant breeze gently blows across my cheek as we look out over a lush, verdant landscape of low-growth Madagascar vanilla vines and coconut palms planted neatly in rows as far as the eye can see in every direction. Their delicate fronds, swaying in the breeze, form a dense, green curtain, obscuring from our view the tens of thousands of acres of sorghum, soy and corn until another planting of coconut palms repeats the patchwork.

Poultry farms, also hidden from our view, dot the tropical oasis.  

Canals glisten in the sun, carrying their precious cargo of water from one of the four desalination plants in Laayoune on the north-western coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

“It’s a miracle, isn’t it?” Brahim Ghali says in a soft voice.   

President Ghali has returned to his home in Laayoune after spending much of his adult life as president-in-exile of Western Sahara otherwise known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), running a government from the Sahrawi refugee camps of Tindouf, Algeria. 

“The ancient scrolls speak about this region once being a garden,” he says, which brings a smile to my face.

He knows the story, I think. And we’ve finally gotten ourselves back to the garden. 

It has taken an enormous effort to get to this point. Uniting the Arab countries of Western Sahara, Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria as members of the African Union was no small political ordeal.  And we have only just begun. There is still much more to accomplish.

It was just three years ago when I first proposed the Northern Sahara Terraforming Project to a consortium of concerned government leaders, over 30 CEOs of multinationals from various industries and a half-dozen progressive thinkers with deep pockets – and I mean progressive in the sense of progress, not socialism. This latter group wanted no part in the project for the simple reason that if the issue of climate change were resolved, they’d be out of work.

We met on Grand Bahama Island at the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach Resort—not the first place one would think such a meeting of the world’s richest and smartest people would take place. Nonetheless, I chose this as the meeting place as a fitting reminder of why we were here: It was only six years earlier in 2019 that Hurricane Dorian, the most “intense tropical cyclone on record to strike the Bahamas,” made landfall in this part of the world. And Dorian was still regarded as the “worst natural disaster in The Bahamas’ recorded history.”

Among the participants were Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Warren Buffett and Sir Richard Branson, whose $25million reward to “save the Earth,” provided the seed capital to propel the idea forward. Twenty-four leaders from their respective countries were also in attendance as were the CEOs from the seven largest multi-national oil and gas corporations, known as the Seven Sisters, the 15 largest forestry companies, the ten largest construction companies the five largest agricultural companies and six of the ten largest US poultry companies.

We dubbed it the “G-24 Summit to Save the Earth.”

Everyone spoke. All listened intently. There were no arguments, only productive discussions—a major accomplishment in itself given that 24 countries were represented. There were no bombastic monologues delivered by crowd-pleasing politicians meant to garner a few juicy soundbites in front of a TV camera for their constituents back home. It was clear from the beginning that we were all here to solve a problem that has vexed the best scientists for decades while affecting the Earth and its population of seven billion.

When it was my turn to speak, I had the lights in the conference room dimmed and shared on the screen a montage of movie clips including “Star Trek II, the Wrath of Khan,” which featured a terraforming device called the Genesis Device, and a more serious take on the many challenges in space exploration beyond the Moon discussed by scientists in a 45-minute documentary entitled “The Universe, Colonizing Space.”

As the lights came up, I began my talk.

The literature – almost all of it in the genre of science fiction – has been describing terraforming since the early 1940s. The current and very popular Amazon original TV series “The Expanse,” based on the novels of the same name by James S. A. Corey, takes place in the future when Mars has been terraformed and the outer planets colonized.

Ladies and gentlemen—we have been dreaming about terraforming for almost 80 years. I think this is more than just science fiction. When so many people from many different parts of the world have been thinking and dreaming and writing about the same concept for almost a century I am led to believe that this is not mere coincidence but a God-given vision for our own planet. The question is this: Are we willing to believe it? And are we willing to act on it?”

At this point there was considerable chatter in the room and I was expecting some pushback after I mentioned the word God. Anticipating this, I added, “But despite your belief or non-belief in religion, clearly I think you would all agree that all of us share the commonality as being citizens of planet Earth and we all have a moral responsibility to be the Earth’s stewards not just for the sake of the planet but for the sake of and well-being of the planet’s inhabitants.”

“Hear hear!” Sir Branson shouted enthusiastically as the room erupted into polite applause.  

I waited for the applause to die down and continued,

“I realize we are talking about an almost unimaginably huge project to terraform a large portion of the Northern Sahara into an oasis. It will be an expensive, logistical challenge. We will need trees—lots of trees—and grasses and other plants and of course water—lots of it. We will need to construct several desalination plants along the western coastal region to provide the water for irrigation. As the terraforming project spreads eastward, another construction project to divert water from the Nile River would provide the necessary irrigation for that area of the northern Sahara spanning its eastern boundaries. The economies of all countries within the Sahara’s borders: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia would benefit greatly.

Hundreds of thousands of acres of what was once desert would be converted into growing regions for grain and the raising of poultry to feed the world’s ever-growing population.

And the two greatest, long-term benefits to our planet would be that by terraforming a large portion of the Sahara into a green oasis, we would create a huge, natural, photosynthetic sponge, recycling billions of tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide while cooling off an ecosystem that currently provides the radiative heat energy that generates destructive Atlantic hurricanes.” 

At the end of the five-day summit, we agreed to draft a document called the “World Alliance Declaration for the Stewardship of the Earth.” The document recognized that the project would take a decades-long commitment of trillions of dollars, not just from wealthy individuals and multi-national corporations but also from the governments of the world.

Future rewards would justify the investment in both the near term and for generations to come. It was estimated that tens of millions of jobs would be created in regions of the developing world still struggling to live above the poverty line.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide would be buffered by photosynthesis, allowing the continued, prudent use of clean fossil fuels.

And yes—man would actually have achieved something thought impossible even by most atmospheric scientists—we would have effectively controlled the weather!

___________________

As a pragmatic scientist, I am always thinking of ways to solve problems. Problem solving is, after all, the end of critical thinking. But just as some of the science fiction of late 19th  – early 20th century writers like Jules Verne, George Orwell and Ray Bradbury have become our 21st century science reality, could not terraforming the Sahara Desert be more than just a pipe dream? In a world where warring factions have killed one another over a patch of sand and capitalist, multi-national corporations are at odds with socialist-leaning governments, can we really expect a “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” zeitgeist to prevail on the Earth? Consider this: Although Muslims conquered the Iberian Peninsula in 711 and were the dominant force until being finally driven out of Spain by Roman Catholics in 1492, there were amazing periods during these seven centuries of la conviviencia, the Spanish word for coexistence, among Jews, Muslims and Roman Catholics that allowed for a “huge interplay of cultural ideas.” As an eternal optimist, I am cautiously hopeful.  

Gregory J. Rummo is a lecturer of chemistry at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida and a contributing writer for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation   

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billtoo
January 24, 2022 6:02 pm

isn’t sand highly reflective?

Gregory J. Rummo
Reply to  billtoo
January 24, 2022 6:25 pm

Ever walk on a beach in south Florida in the summer barefoot – LOL.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Gregory J. Rummo
January 25, 2022 5:13 am

That depends on what the beach is made of. Two beaches, just a short distance apart, separated by the Venice Jetty are completely different. Venice beach is sand, it gets hot, very hot in the summer. You cannot walk on it with bare feet. Nokomis beach is made up of ground quartz and shells, bright and slightly more rough but only gets warm not hot at midday. Cools down as the Sun sets. Very close, yet different by far.

Prjindigo
Reply to  billtoo
January 24, 2022 11:41 pm

and very very poorly nutritive, if growing crops on sand worked then North Korea wouldn’t need food aid at all. There isn’t enough bull shit in Belgium to fertilize a square mile of Sahara.

Fiona
Reply to  Prjindigo
January 25, 2022 4:19 am

But these issues could be overcome with trillions of dollars. See how it works?

john harmsworth
Reply to  Fiona
January 25, 2022 2:58 pm

Pretty sure the PR would be better anyway.

Juan Slayton
Reply to  Prjindigo
January 25, 2022 5:52 am

Maybe not Belgum, but Washington is up to the challenge….

tonyb(@climatereason)
Editor
Reply to  Juan Slayton
January 25, 2022 6:17 am

Sounds like the region would return to being the breadbasket it used to be under Carthage and Rome, before the climate changed, as it has a habit of doing throughout the holocene

tonyb

Richard Page
Reply to  Prjindigo
January 25, 2022 12:15 pm

Plants grow on sand dunes. From there it takes time but it can be done. Irrigation and the right plants to establish a foothold across a wide area is how you would begin a project like that. The thing is, it is actually doable with time and investment.

sturmudgeon
Reply to  Prjindigo
January 25, 2022 2:09 pm

Not so sure about your last sentence.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Prjindigo
January 25, 2022 2:58 pm

North Korea could and would fertilize with the blood of their own people and still screw it up.

MarkW
Reply to  billtoo
January 25, 2022 9:50 am

Only parts of the Sahara are made up of sand.

Paul C
Reply to  billtoo
January 26, 2022 5:58 am

Sand is usually slightly translucent, so some energy is absorbed within the upper layers of sand heating it up. However, yes some light is reflected, but evaporation would be capable of transporting more energy away from the surface on top of the many other benefits. Other materials which are more translucent often appear to be white from the scattered light – snow, and polar bear fur to name a couple.

Tom Halla
January 24, 2022 6:13 pm

Trying to reclaim the Sahara would be a pain. Dealing with desalination might be less of a pain than purely political issues, with Salafis trying to advance the faith more than doing the purported goal.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Tom Halla
January 25, 2022 9:25 pm

Instead of desalination plants, which are hugely inefficient, I’ve always thought a great experiment would be to build a 75 km diameter circular “lake” in the middle of Algeria, then pump water from the Mediterranean into it through 20 foot diameter pipes (three should suffice). If you made it 10 meters deep, the fill would take a little over a year – but the effects would take place immediately.

That’s the size of Great Salt Lake, in Utah, and it controls the precipitation at great distances. It’s the reason the mountains to the east have such great skiing.

I would also put in return lines for salt water to be returned to the Mediterranean, to limit the lake’s salinity and allow the whole thing to be decommissioned if necessary.

January 24, 2022 6:26 pm

Ka-Daffy drilled wells in Libya to use the ground water…but of course ground water is not quickly replaced after being drawn down. The Israelis appear to be doing a good agricultural job with drip irrigation. The Saudis use desalinization but there is a brine disposal problem. Using solar power for desalinization means no produced water at night….best use a Molten Salts Reactor with thorium for fuel.

goldminor
Reply to  Anti-griff
January 24, 2022 8:17 pm

Is there a Grandma-griff as well in this family?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  goldminor
January 24, 2022 9:03 pm

No, just the ‘bastardi‘ child.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Anti-griff
January 24, 2022 9:38 pm

Huh, you think so? Solar desalination by distillation can operate 24/7 without electricity save for small circulation pumps. The engineering challenge is trivial. One has been operating in Haiti since the mid-70’s (see Brace research Institute, Montreal).

Khaddafi’s boreholes were pulling up water that fell as rain only 5000 years ago so the prospect of transformation can work if the rainfall can be restarted.

There is the large Qattara depression (1.2 trillion cu m) in western Egypt that is well below sea level which if allowed to be filled with sea water (generating power as it does) would humidity the whole area around it. Planning goes back 110 years. The evaporation would require a continuous input of water from the Mediterranean. It could bring down sea levels a mite.

My point is desalination can occur way inland using solar power, while simultaneously generating hydro power, while making the region wetter.

This would require far less money and infrastructure than any plan to pump water around the Western Sahara – which is still a slave owning country, don’t you know. The Qattara Depression Project has been worked out for years. Start there and work west is my advice.

Prjindigo
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 24, 2022 11:45 pm

actually the best desalination tech is storage towers and gravity pressurized systems, they may not be as fast as high pressure pump systems but they can run all night long on solar power XD

griff
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 25, 2022 12:17 am

There is a longstanding detailed plan to take water from the Med into the Dead Sea, again generating power…

tonyb(@climatereason)
Editor
Reply to  griff
January 25, 2022 6:22 am

Link please Griff giving costs and timescales

Tonyb

MarkW
Reply to  tonyb
January 25, 2022 9:55 am

I’ve been hearing about this plan for years, though I don’t recall hearing about getting power from it. There’s a drop of 400 feet or so, so it might be possible.

Reply to  griff
January 25, 2022 7:29 am

Longstanding plan to make the Dead Sea even deader and saltier.

PCman999
Reply to  Anti-griff
January 25, 2022 2:40 pm

Actually the plan is to make it less saltier! So much water has been diverted from the Jordan River that the Dead Sea has been evaporatoring away. Israel and Jordan signed a deal a few year ago to a pipeline to siphon water from the Mediterranean, over the mountains in Israel and down into the Dead Sea. The Mediterranean Sea is very salty, more than the oceans, but nothing comes close to the Dead Sea.

Joao Martins
Reply to  griff
January 25, 2022 8:27 am

Yes!

And I heard about another plan to link the net to gymnasium bykes to collect the energy “produced” by the people working out!

Last edited 3 months ago by Joao Martins
PCman999
Reply to  Joao Martins
January 25, 2022 2:53 pm

It might inspire them, if they saw how much they were charging up their devices by pedaling. Watt-hours instead of calories.

PCman999
Reply to  griff
January 25, 2022 2:42 pm

Very long standing – it was a book by Jules Verne.

Thanks Griff, even a clock blinking 12:00 is correct a couple of times a day!

Alfred T Mahan
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 25, 2022 1:37 am

I’ve been a fan of this for many years. Another advantage is that it would increase the amount of habitable land in Egypt, which would help to reduce conflict across the Middle East. The shortage of it is one of the underlying problems in the whole area. Not a panacea, but a step in the right direction none the less.

tonyb(@climatereason)
Editor
Reply to  Alfred T Mahan
January 25, 2022 6:20 am

Alfred

Very true but the lack of land is due mostly to a rapidly rising population. It was 20 million in 1950 and over 100 million today. You would have to have lots more land and the best climate ever to cope with those numbers

tonyb

sturmudgeon
Reply to  tonyb
January 25, 2022 2:15 pm

Which means, I would guess, that the amount of land for the ‘agriculture’ would be diminished substantially.

PCman999
Reply to  tonyb
January 25, 2022 2:49 pm

Are you advocating some kind of ‘Final Solution’? People have the right to have as many kids as they want. Good or bad, they are the ones who will have to live with it, none of our business.

Eric Vieira
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 25, 2022 2:22 am

You have to watch out: the Assuan project led to infiltration of water in the desert ground. This caused the fresh water for certain oases to become salty! Filling the
Quatar depression with salt water would have an enormously greater impact.

PCman999
Reply to  Eric Vieira
January 25, 2022 2:55 pm

Very good point! How far from Assuan, or is it Aswan, were the affected oases?

Joao Martins
Reply to  PCman999
January 26, 2022 4:56 am

And what about the geology surrounding both places? Where did that “salt” (what kind of?) come from?

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 25, 2022 3:57 am

Re: the de-sal = exactly my thinking. Use what ever, and all, natural depressions there are and fill them with seawater.
Those lakes will cool the area local to them and pump water into the sky which can only make clouds and rain – further cooling the desert.
(Exactly what Australia needs to reclaim itself = simply put up a dam and flood the Murray Darling Basin with water, any water)

Quote:”It will be an expensive logistical challenge.
= A self fulfilling prophecy. The cronies, money grubbers, cheats and liars will be hearing that and the project *WILL* turn into that and It Will Fail

If any of the participants start out thinking like that – Show Them The Door

Quote: We will need trees—lots of trees—and grasses and other plants
Bollox bollox bollox –No you won’t

You will need soil improver – you need something in the sand to feed plants.

The whole point of a desert, what makes it a desert, what maintains it as a desert, is that there is no food there for plants to ‘eat’ and so they simply avoid the place.
Would you visit a restaurant that had no food, a pub with no beer or a hospital with no medicine, not even any sticky plasters?

The food you want is any rock you can find locally – black coloured rock. Crush it up until it passes a 4mm mesh then spread it on the sand at arate of 10 tonnes per acre.
Now THAT is your ‘significant’ cost and it only really depends on the transport cost of the rock.
While you’re at it, ask any and all countries that operate ‘road vehicles’ such as cars, trucks buses etc for all their old worn out tyres.
Remove the steel from them and then put them through the rock-crushing plant. Simple as that and the countries involved will probably pay you good money to be rid the old tyres.
If you really wanted and what would be a *fantastic* thing to do, oxidise the steel from the tyres, or even better, make Iron Sulphate from it. Your desert garden will lap it up
Be cheeky, ask your ‘tyre donaters’ if they have any ‘unwanted organic waste’
Snap it up if they say ‘yes’

Then then then, be a bit patient or ask Alan Savory to come help you.

You don’t need be very patient – this world contains things called ‘Invasive Plants’ and once you’ve set your desert garden up (water features and plant food) – then The Invasives will move in.

Do Everything You Can To Welcome and Assist Them – and that means feeding them with a bit of high Nitrogen fertiliser as used by farmers all around the world
Some 25-5-5 with added Sulphur would be ideal – 50kg per acre is more than enough but *only* where any plants are getting established.
Also note what plants they are and maybe add in some seed of closely related species.
Do Not ‘force’ the situation by racing with truck-loads of whatever your favourite trees, plants or flowers are – they *will* fail and die and when they do, so will your enthusiasm – exactly as per your initial prophecy.

Welcome in the greenery, no matter what it is

THEN, your desert will be terraformed and it will have cost very little to do.

  • Some basic bulldozing to create ponds lakes and inland seas.
  • Ask the Dutch for some big water pumps (they are lovely people with a strong farming instinct, they will probably help for free) to fill those lakes. Make some big ‘canals off those lakes, canals that go nowhere but increase evaporation and cloud/rain creation.
  • Locate your nearest source of Basalt rock (Granite would do at a push -but c’mon folks, where are our ‘Resident Geologists on here?) and set up a supply chain to grind it up and then disperse it across the sand.
  • Import waste from anywhere everywhere – they will give you Good Money to let you take it.
  • Let the weeds grow. If green slime develops in your lakes, FANTASTIC, fish it out spread it around
  • Once the weeds are growing, add some Perennial Ryegrass seed and then put some cows or Buffalo onto the weed patch, No sheep. No goats. Only bovines.
  • Then and only then, move in with your ‘nice trees’, pretty flowers and chicken farms.
  • Do not ‘push’ Ma Mature – she will only push back much harder than even the deepest pessimists and nay-sayers could ever imagine

So simple to do. So inexpensive, once you realise what actually defines ‘A Desert’

No it is not a place with a Crap Climate causing plants not to grow.
Deserts are places with No Plants (and thus water) and THAT causes the Crap Climate. ##
Could we introduce that notion into primary school education?

Just that one simple little thing will, inside 2 or 3 generations, fix the deserts and thus The Climate – for ever more until greed and chainsaws recombine.

## Apologies to Jim, Captain Minutiae, Steele and all others who imagine that Truckloads of Trivia, Minutia Mining and Oceans of Irrelevance comprise ‘Science’
No they don’t, they are symptomatic of Dead Science – signs of the contemporary new Dark Age we are now within
Real Science comprises Big Thinking, Big Ideas, Optimism and not least, Original Thinking.

When was the last time any of those things were seen here or anywhere inside the media?

Last edited 3 months ago by Peta of Newark
Mr.
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 25, 2022 10:06 am

Peta, Australia has a mighty inland water course called the Channel Country.

It carries monsoon rainfall from NE Australia to South Australia most years.

And it gets much wider than the Mississippi, but not very deep.

DrTorch
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 25, 2022 1:41 pm

That’s a lot of specifics you provide, with good back up.

IMO, here’s what serious billionaires would do: have a contest.

How much land do you need do a demo? 10 acres? 1 sq mi? 10 sq mi?

Develop a timeline, and a budget.

Let Rummo plant his mangroves, and you get your approach.

Let’s see how things stand in 10(?) years.

Mike
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 25, 2022 8:45 pm

The whole point of a desert, what makes it a desert, what maintains it as a desert, is that there is no food there for plants to ‘eat’ and so they simply avoid the place.”
Utter nonsense. The reason no or few plants grow in the deserts is due to lack of water. Many desert soils are highly fertile due to infrequent leaching. Very few of the deserts have pure sand as their main soil type. Usually it is clay and silt. Just add water. I grow many desert plants and you can believe me when I say that they require the same amount of nutrients to grow well as any other plant.

Mike
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 25, 2022 8:52 pm

The food you want is any rock you can find locally – black coloured rock. Crush it up until it passes a 4mm mesh then spread it on the sand at arate of 10 tonnes per acre.”
You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. Doing that is just spreading sand around the place. That won’t do anything. Most deserts have enough colloids but if not you need to add CLAY not crushed rocks (sand). Clay to hold cations (ammonium, magnesium, potassium, calcium etc) and water (and perhaps some phosphate for a while) to grow the plant that’s all you need . The organics will come by themselves.

Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 25, 2022 5:53 am

So, the sun shines at night in Haiti? What would you call that man created sea in Egypt…the Dead Sea? If the rainfall can be restarted??? If you can restart rainfall in the Sahara before the earth’s orbit changes…why not just do it now?

Mark Blocker
Reply to  Anti-griff
January 25, 2022 7:01 am

The Dead Sea is rather north and east of present day Egypt, so it’s rather clear that you literally don’t know what you’re talking about.

Reply to  Mark Blocker
January 25, 2022 8:45 am

Well, gee, Mark, I was referring to a “new” Dead Sea if this thing was created in Egypt…you see if you pump salt water into a sea and water evaporates…salt remains and accumulates.

Mark Blocker
Reply to  Anti-griff
February 6, 2022 12:26 pm

In that case the title has already been claimed, kindly choose another. I believe the Zionists are making money off the Dead Sea as well, in various ways.

There have been similar hydropower proposals for that area too, incidentally.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Anti-griff
January 25, 2022 5:41 pm

You deserve a reply – never assume anything. A solar still works more efficiently at night than in the daytime. During the day solar thermal energy is stored and released at night when the air temp is lower and the air more humid. The angled glass plate collects and condenses water vapour more efficiently that during the day. No moving parts.

Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 26, 2022 6:11 pm

Well, Old Sol, the sun,thus solar… don’t work at night. I understand it is possible to produce ice at night in the desert but if it’s so great, why haven’t they transformed the desert? must be some problem, eh?

Rocketscientist
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 25, 2022 9:35 am

Well, if you want a historic account of what happens when a depression becomes reflooded one only has to look at the Salton Sea in southern CA. And, that was inundated with FRESH water. The ancient depression’s soils are replete with natural salts left behind from the last time it dried up eons ago. Now as it disappears yet again the caustic salt dust is prevalent and noxious.

As these brine depressions become even more loaded with evaporated residue, do we expect harvesting? If so, lets look at the Owen’s Valley (that Mulholland drained) and all the harvesting accomplished there. It can be a nasty drive up the eastern Sierras if the wind is up.

Nice talking points, but actions speak louder.

PCman999
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 25, 2022 12:41 pm

I was looking at that depression as well and had a similar thought, leave the sea water as is, plant mangroves, etc, and let the humidity alter the environment, while generating power too. Could probably run a pipeline from the Nile if fresh water was a necessity.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  PCman999
January 25, 2022 5:43 pm

The depression is very salty and surrounded by salt marshes and vast areas of other salt deposits. It is not a new depression. It used to be full of sea water.

Prjindigo
Reply to  Anti-griff
January 24, 2022 11:44 pm

thorium is not fuel, it must be turned into uranium – all molten salt reactors are Uranium and due to the way they work they’re offline more than online

they also produce large volumes of completely unrecyclable Class A waste by wearing out their structure – that’s why we use high and low pressure water reactors: water doesn’t grind away at tempered steel requiring half the reactor to be replaced every 2 years.

Eric Vieira
Reply to  Prjindigo
January 25, 2022 2:43 am

The Thorium gets transformed into U233 in the reactor (breeder) of a MSR which is fissile. Since this is actually a waste material coming from rare-earth mining, it is abundant and cheap and would suffice for at least a thousand years. You can add to this the huge tonnage of nuclear waste which could be recycled and thus disposed of. Corrosion of the piping is a problem which can be addressed with special alloys containing Nickel (e.g. Hastelloy N). The “large volumes” of untreatable waste are many orders of magnitude smaller than the untreatable waste which will come from EOL Wind Turbines and solar panels, without counting the mountains of concrete used for the base of the turbines which is not disposed of.

ripshin(@ripshin)
Editor
Reply to  Eric Vieira
January 27, 2022 7:39 am

You’re not wrong, but the need to use thorium hasn’t been reached yet. There’s plenty of uranium still to use before needing to switch to thorium.

rip

Alfred Garrett
Reply to  Prjindigo
January 25, 2022 5:35 am

Russia has been successfully running liquid sodium reactors at Beloyarsk for many years (BN600 and BN800 reactors).

BFL
Reply to  Alfred Garrett
January 25, 2022 3:24 pm

Apparently liquid sodium Russian versions have been around since 1972 and the BN-600 since 1980. Had some problems with sodium leaks/fires, but designed so that they are relatively easily handled with no shutdowns. Nice overview:
https://www.gen-4.org/gif/upload/docs/application/pdf/2019-01/gifiv_webinar_pakhomov_19_dec_2018_final.pdf

Reply to  Prjindigo
January 25, 2022 6:05 am

You have no clue…disinformation and false statements.

Walter Horsting
January 24, 2022 6:37 pm

Imagine, low cost clean energy with 500 MWe 575C thermal heat for desalinization coupled https://www.desertcontrol.com/with https://www.desertcontrol.com/

The least impacting energy source on nature:
https://businessdevelopmentinternational.biz/seaborg-co/
Seaborg deep dive: https://webcast.ec.europa.eu/deep-dive-on-floating-nuclear-reactors

Bob K
January 24, 2022 6:38 pm

I think it was Ethiopia which recently completed a large dam close to source of the Nile, presumably to make extensive use of the Nile for its own country. This already has Egypt worried about what happens if rainfall is poor for a year or two.

I think it is pie in the sky type thinking to believe the Nile will provide enough water to green the eastern Sahara.

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  Bob K
January 24, 2022 6:59 pm

Agreed. I thought it kind of went off the rails with “divert the Nile”, but even the desalination, do the crops grown provide enough return to pay for the desalination?

Bob K
Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
January 24, 2022 7:10 pm

TG I agree with you about that.

I don’t know what the cost/benefit of desal would be, but it can’t be very favorable if at all.

Duncan MacKenzie
Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
January 24, 2022 9:17 pm

how much would we in the eastern US pay to not have hurricanes anymore?

short term: how much would we in the eastern US pay to not have many hurricanes anymore, and not have any strong hurricanes?

There is an area of western Egypt below sea level. The Nile theoretically could be partially diverted during flood stage to create a small inland sea there.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Duncan MacKenzie
January 24, 2022 10:03 pm

If hurricanes are one of the ways the earths heat engine pumps heat from the equator to the poles, what happens when we try to shut it down?

I’m unsure except I’m pretty sure it’s not “nothing”.

Duncan MacKenzie
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
January 24, 2022 10:52 pm

is the effect worse than a major hurricane hitting my neighborhood?

if not, why shouldn’t i pay to decrease major hurricanes hitting my neighborhood?

AndyHce
Reply to  Duncan MacKenzie
January 25, 2022 12:51 am

What you mean is why should government not use a gun to every head to make everyone pay whether they believe it worthwhile or not.

MarkW
Reply to  Duncan MacKenzie
January 25, 2022 10:07 am

What happens when the forests burn down and the farms have to close because they are no longer being watered by hurricanes?

TonyG
Reply to  Duncan MacKenzie
January 25, 2022 11:40 am

is the effect worse than a major hurricane hitting my neighborhood?

What if it turns out that it IS? You think we really understand enough to know for sure?

Prjindigo
Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
January 24, 2022 11:46 pm

in the soil they’re going to use? the crops won’t even pay for micronutrient

Paul Milenkovic
January 24, 2022 6:52 pm

I attended a seminar talk at a weekly environmental symposium held at a major public university in the U.S. Great Lakes region.

The two speakers talked about modified grazing practices that would allow the 2/3rds of the worlds agricultural land that is only suitable for grassland instead of crops. The practice is that you allow pasture animals to graze a field down and then you move them to another pasture to allow what they grazed down to regenerate.

This method of managing grazing is supposed to sequester carbon by building up the soil, and the speakers claimed that the worlds grass lands could sequester the current fossil fuel emissions of CO2.

You could say, big deal, what happens when fossil fuel consumption increases? Or you could say big deal, CO2 emission from fossil fuels is not a problem.

Still, this practice builds up rather than depletes fertility of the soil. Also, if CO2 is indeed a concern, this practice could at least allow current rates of fossil fuel usage without drastic reductions and their economic impacts — it could provide a softer landing to a post-fossil fuel age than these “the world is going to burn up in 12 years if we don’t spend trillions of dollars” schemes.

This practice appears to be a “thing.” A person I knew who grew up on a dairy farm told me that this kind of rotation of intensive grazing was what was practiced on that farm. Also, I read that billionaire-businessman-environmentalist-presidential candidate was trying, albeit with mixed success, to do such a thing on land he owns. Finally, the late physicist Freeman Dyson stated that with a group at one of the National (weapons) Labs looking for something to do with the Cold War winding down, he “looked into” the carbon cycle/global warming problem, long before this drew a lot of public attention, and came to a similar conclusion that a small increase in the rate carbon is sequestered in soils would essentially solve that problem.

So what was the reaction of the audience? A polite silence. I guess a change in ranching practices was not “Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy” of wind mills and residential rooftop solar panels. It appeared to be too simple a solution to maintain perpetual agitation about the problem?

Paul Milenkovic
Reply to  Paul Milenkovic
January 24, 2022 6:53 pm

The billionaire-environmentalist is Tom Steyer, by the way,

Spetzer86
Reply to  Paul Milenkovic
January 24, 2022 7:16 pm
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Paul Milenkovic
January 24, 2022 9:06 pm

The practice is that you allow pasture animals to graze a field down and then you move them to another pasture to allow what they grazed down to regenerate.

Sheep and goats have been managed that way since time immemorial. And the job still isn’t done? I think the basic premise needs to be re-examined.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Paul Milenkovic
January 24, 2022 9:45 pm

That grazing system is known in Southern Africa, particularly Namibia, as “Holistic veld management”. It more than doubles the carrying capacity of the land while allowing the removal of all alien species of plants. Essentially it permits the cattle to emulate the grazing behaviour of the antelope.

Ante-lope? Sounds like anti-trotter to me…

Home, home in the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard
A discouraging word
But, what can an antelope say?

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Paul Milenkovic
January 24, 2022 9:59 pm

I think they are saying eating meat is good as we would need vast herds of cows etc.
Rotating them is as old as time, the Buffalo did it by migrating in a yearly pattern, grazing and fertlizing the North American plains twice a year.

So we get rid of all those corn farms that are killing everyone with high fructose corn syrup, and wasting the rest on biofuel, convert back to grasslands and increase the cattle herd by a billion head, we eat more red meat and less carbs and lose weight and cure diabetes and live forever and Covid then has almost no effect as no one is obese

CO2 is stored so we don’t need to cover all that prairie with useless solar panels and wind turbines and we get on with the good life?

I like it. Sign me up

Last edited 3 months ago by Pat from kerbob
Rick W Kargaard
Reply to  Paul Milenkovic
January 25, 2022 5:55 am

The silence may have been the reaction to a “NEW” farming and ranching technique. Rotational grazing has been used by almost all the better farmers and ranchers for many years and does, of course, work well.

Jeff Alberts
January 24, 2022 7:05 pm

Umm, every place on Earth is already part of Terra. So how would you Terraform the Earth? Idiotic headline.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
January 25, 2022 5:20 am

Buzz words. Used on the ignorant for many decades.

Duane
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
January 25, 2022 5:46 am

That … and the notion of terrafarming is about taking a planet that has no or marginal atmosphere, like Mars, and creating an oxygen rich relatively dense atmosphere that eventually supports life at high densities like on Earth.

This piece is not about “terrafarming” – it is simply about irrigating dry lands. Which is as old a concept as civilization and agriculture. Desalination is a very expensive and difficult and complex process prone to breakdowns that is only economically feasible today to support production of drinking water, which is but a tiny sip compared the the volume of water needed to supply crops.

MarkW
Reply to  Duane
January 25, 2022 10:06 am

Terraforming Mars involves building an atmosphere.
Terraforming Venus involves thinning the atmosphere.

TonyG
Reply to  MarkW
January 25, 2022 11:48 am

Build a big pipe and pump atmosphere from Venus to Mars…

sturmudgeon
Reply to  TonyG
January 25, 2022 2:31 pm

Love it! Thanks.

Richard (the cynical one)
January 24, 2022 7:10 pm

Then there will be the unexpected downstream consequences, one of which might be a reduction in the health of the Amazon rainforest, since jungle soils are notoriously mineral deficient, and that area gets remineralized now by the dust clouds from Saharan sandstorms.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Richard (the cynical one)
January 24, 2022 9:09 pm

Projects of that scale are likely to have unintended consequences.

Spencer’s Third Law: For every social action there is an equal an opposite reaction.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 25, 2022 5:22 am

What will happen to the low pressure systems that come off the African coast each summer to form tropical storms? Those storms, even the destructive ones, are essential to replace ground water supplies in hot, tropical places.

Brian Pratt
January 24, 2022 7:13 pm

Having been to both Morocco and Mauritania, I wonder about the ‘arab democratic’ republic movement stated here, given that Berbers are a dominant group, not that I saw any obvious discrimination, and there is much intermingling of sub-Saharan Africans in Mauritania. Having said that, more than 30 years ago there was racial bloodshed in Nouakchott. Anyway, without checking, this is news to me, besides the lack of mention of the ever-present danger of bandits of various stripes in the desert.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Brian Pratt
January 24, 2022 9:57 pm

The “bandits” are the Tuaregs killing the French and American special forces in the Central Sahara. They want to create their own ethnic slave-owning country in the central Sahara.

The “racial bloodshed” 30 years ago was because at that time (UN figures) there were only 1500 blacks in the country who were NOT slaves. They almost all lived under a bridge in Noaukchott because the Berbers would not allow them access to communal grazing or water, as punishment for refusing to be enslaved any longer. I assisted two projects trying to resettle and employ ex-slaves on the wadis where no on else could bother them, to grow a few vegetables. The society was against even that.

If this water project proceeds the local beneficiaries should all be slaves, freed slaves and their descendants, seeing as the uber-rich are so concerned with western slavery and history and making amends and alla that.

Smart Rock
January 24, 2022 7:20 pm

If calling it “terraforming” helps them raise the capital to start, good for them. But there’s not much new here, other than pretending that it’s a new concept.

Gordon
January 24, 2022 7:20 pm

2 bird with 1 stone
Build Nuclear Plants to Generate Power with a Desalination Plant beside it. Generate Water from the waste heat and if there is excess power in Europe every now and then that the wind can provide run the Desalination Plant. In the meanwhile generate reliable power.
Look at graphs Willis Eschenbach has produced terraforming the Sahara would have a tremendous impact on the heat balance.Somehow the earth deals with the incredible amount of Brine generated in the Artic and Antarctic, so the Brine issue can be dealt with.

Rich Davis
January 24, 2022 7:40 pm

Don’t mind to see them try, but I suspect it’s not so simple to create more than a few scattered oases.

Btw it’s “hear!, hear!”, not “here here!”, but who knows if Branson knows that.

AndyHce
Reply to  Rich Davis
January 25, 2022 1:18 am

It is likely to happen on its own, in time, as precession and obliquity cycles recreate the relationships that made the Sahara a grassland with very large lakes and river systems earlier in the Holocene.

Jay Willis
Reply to  AndyHce
January 25, 2022 3:22 am

Thanks for the link Andy, interesting video.

sturmudgeon
Reply to  Jay Willis
January 25, 2022 2:38 pm

Except for that dumb background music, and the rushed narrative.

AndyHce
Reply to  sturmudgeon
January 25, 2022 4:07 pm

I have watched better presentations on the subject but my skill in finding a YouTube video a second time is low.

Duane
Reply to  AndyHce
January 25, 2022 5:49 am

Yup – and the weather and climatic patterns that created the one time savanna in what is now the Sahara Desert likely created a desert somewhere else on the planet … it’s all the same moisture content in the atmosphere – the only thing that varies much is where that moisture is distributed. It is indeed a zero sum game.

whiten
Reply to  Duane
January 25, 2022 8:12 am

Actually, global warming, reduces the global aridity… more global warming – less global aridity… or the vice-versa. 🙂

The trillions of dollars do not do either… but still good and tempting investment of nationals treasures, for the thieves to manage…

Some kinda of fiction though, like from the very “science guy’s” bible… the Nay’s bible… of the “crystals all the way down”, “The Bliss”.
And still with no much appealing, as yet, without a “berry” at the whelms.

cheers

Reply to  AndyHce
January 25, 2022 8:04 am
Last edited 3 months ago by Anti-griff
Gregory J. Rummo
Reply to  Rich Davis
January 25, 2022 2:55 am

Thank you for pointing this out their, er they’re, er there. My bad. Don’t blame Sir Richard for a bad choice of a homonym. I’ll ask the editor to fix this.

sturmudgeon
Reply to  Rich Davis
January 25, 2022 2:42 pm

Oasis perhaps?

markl
January 24, 2022 7:52 pm

This is right up there with controlling the earth’s climate.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  markl
January 25, 2022 2:42 am

Yes. All we have to do is redirecting the down-wind of the Hadley cells to fall farther north on the Mediterranean Sea and pick up plenty of moisture there. We wouldn’t have to build desalination plants at all.
Couldn’t be that complicated. /s

goldminor
Reply to  Rainer Bensch
January 25, 2022 8:30 pm

Should be an easy task for the Democrat leadership. They can change the spin on almost anything with little effort.

Ebor
Reply to  markl
January 25, 2022 5:27 am
gbaikie
January 24, 2022 8:12 pm

Put dam in Greenland, pipe the water to the Sahara.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  gbaikie
January 25, 2022 5:23 am

Or just float icebergs there.

gbaikie
Reply to  Tom in Florida
January 25, 2022 1:22 pm

I think one should manufacture huge ice barges.
Or could call it farming polar ice with big chainsaws.
And drag them with nuclear powered tugs.
Though more a massive logging operation which makes
about 20 of these ice barges per season which each has about
1 billion tons of ice.
You would need a lot fanatics which like cold weather.
So, it seems Europeans are overly fond of the cold- and too young
Europeans doing nothing healthy.
It would be a great education.

Izaak Walton
January 24, 2022 8:18 pm

There does seem to be a lot of these pretend universities on this blog. Just last week there was a sociologist from the Lysander Spooner University writing about glaciers and now we have a chemist from a fundamentalist christian university where students are forced to attend chapel (so much for seperation between church and state) talking about terraforming. A subject in which he appears to have no qualifications, experience or publications but just wishful thinking.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Izaak Walton
January 24, 2022 9:52 pm

A private university isn’t “the state” so that is not mixing church and state.
But take heart, the article implies that environmentalists succeeded in reducing the population to 7 billion in just 3 years, making Mao, Stalin, Hitler and PolPot together look like amateurs

sturmudgeon
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
January 25, 2022 2:45 pm

Present governments are working on that.

BrianB
Reply to  Izaak Walton
January 25, 2022 9:31 am

It’s been a fully accredited university for fifty years, you defamatory dope.
And since I’m pretty sure attendance at the university is voluntary and chapel policy is not a secret no one is “forced” to go to chapel, any more than I was forced to read your drivel.

Mr.
Reply to  BrianB
January 25, 2022 10:37 am

Self enlightenment is demonstrably not one of Izaak’s proficiencies.

MarkW
Reply to  Izaak Walton
January 25, 2022 10:12 am

A university is only a real university when it’s run by the state and it’s faculty are all communists.
BTW, if talking about things you know nothing about was disqualifying, Izaak would be banned.

Last edited 3 months ago by MarkW
Clyde Spencer
January 24, 2022 9:01 pm

We will need to construct several desalination plants along the western coastal region to provide the water for irrigation.

Have you given any thought to what the concentrated brine will do to the ecosystems in the ocean when dumped back? Or, where the power will come from to run the desalinization plants and pumping stations?

I know where the “fragrant breeze” is coming from. The chicken farms! Ever smelled a wet chicken?

AndyHce
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 25, 2022 1:20 am

How much water evaporates from the oceans every day, leaving its salt behind?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  AndyHce
January 25, 2022 8:08 am

Surface evaporation spreads the small effect over a very large area. When it rains, the increased surface salinity is diluted. The organisms that live near the surface have evolved with this and tolerate the variations.

On the other hand, brine with a very high salinity and density, dumped at a point discharge, flows to the bottom and spreads out, where the benthic organisms are not accustomed to high salinity. It will cause ‘dead zones’ and general ecological disruption, particularly if done on the scale necessary to water the Sahara.

Joel
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 25, 2022 4:49 am

Ever smell wet chicken manure?

January 24, 2022 9:07 pm

I realize we are talking about an almost unimaginably huge project to terraform a large portion of the Northern Sahara into an oasis. It will be an expensive, logistical challenge. We will need trees—lots of trees—and grasses and other plants and of course water—lots of it. We will need to construct several desalination plants along the western coastal region to provide the water for irrigation.”

Why stop there? There is a very arid belt to the east and west of the Sahara circling the globe?

Plus, there was reference about “prudent use of fossil fuels”…

From the description, they talk about diverting the Nile River for desert irrigation.

  • A) There goes the Nile River delta.
  • B) Evaporation would concentrate salt in those desert soils.

Their desalination plants would require significant upscaling and significant fossil fuel energy use.

That puts their fantasy deep into unicorn level delusion.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  ATheoK
January 24, 2022 9:49 pm

Would have to be nuclear driven

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  ATheoK
January 24, 2022 10:19 pm

Use solar distillation – it is called a solar still. Properly constructed they run day and night using water as a heat storage mechanism.

Use the Qattara Depression. It can hold 1200 cubic kilometers of salt. That is the salt content of 34,000 cubic kilometers of seawater.

Given a 500 working life, it would yield 188 million litres of fresh water a day. One could irrigate a pretty large farm with that. At standard irrigation rates it would support 47,000 sq kilometers of farms without any rainfall, which is expected to materialise eventually. That is about 1.5 times the cultivated area in Egypt at present (30,000 sq km).

H.R.
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 25, 2022 5:38 am

Crispin, the pushback on the salt build-up isn’t allowing for ingenuity.

The central portion of N. America was a shallow sea. There are now enormous, thick limestone deposits underlying most of the Midwest from that sea *and* there is a huge repository of salt under the Great Lakes (Erie, for now) where the shallow sea turned into an evaporative salt pan.

The salt deposit under Erie has been mined for quite some time. The salt buildup in the Sahara due to desalination activities is an opportunity to put the Erie salt mines out of business.

Okay. Maybe and maybe not. But the point is that sometimes a problem is an opportunity, depending on how you look at it. My only concern would be to make sure fresh groundwater wasn’t contaminated. The salt would have value.

Here’s a little bit on ‘the competition’.

https://industrialscenery.blogspot.com/2019/03/worlds-largest-salt-mine-is-under-lake.html

Sweet Old Bob
Reply to  H.R.
January 25, 2022 7:16 am
H.R.
Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
January 25, 2022 7:49 am

Gonna be lots of competition, eh? 😜

I’m all for terraforming the Sahara so long as the people benefiting are the ones paying for it. They can leave my wallet out of it,

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 25, 2022 8:12 am

There would still be a need for a huge increase in energy to move the distilled water to where it is needed for irrigation.

sturmudgeon
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 25, 2022 2:53 pm

Serious questions: Wouldn’t the subsequent (expected) rainfall wash the salt deeper and cause future harm? Should today’s Science rather be searching for underground sources of water and “creating” many more Oasis, which might gradually change the Desert?

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  sturmudgeon
January 25, 2022 5:46 pm

The area around the expression is already replete with salt. The water would have to be pumped to a distance away, but not nearly as far as is proposed in the article.

Duncan MacKenzie
January 24, 2022 9:13 pm

I’ve read that large parts of southern Algeria are below sea level.

That suggests it might be feasible to have Elon set his Boring Company to digging tunnels from the Mediterranean coast of Algeria to the nearest below-sea-level area, and doing some landscaping to connect the major below sea level areas so Mediterranean water could reach them and fill them.

If we could put a cap on one end of the tunnel, we could then control the water level if needed so certain seasons would have very low water levels and other would have a wide, abundant inland sea.

Go ahead, point out all the reasons this wouldn’t work and I’m a crazy dreamer.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Duncan MacKenzie
January 24, 2022 10:20 pm

Egypt, and is it 20,000 sq km. About the size of Swaziland or Rwanda.

gringojay
January 24, 2022 9:31 pm

Original Post (O.P.) has it’s date of writing as being 2025. Then elaborates about a breakthrough confabulation at a place that the O.P. “chose”. WUWT should lead with a reader advisory when a guest blogger is posting Science Fiction.

By the by: Morocco already considers itself “united” with Western Sahara – as in the later is a part of Morocco. Morocco declared Western Sahara annexed to it in 1975; which the USA government lately recognizes as legitimate.

5CE37931-0DFB-4144-96E3-778AD48B8C11.jpeg
Pat from kerbob
January 24, 2022 9:48 pm

Wow
So if there are only 7billion people in 2025 doesn’t that mean the green blob has already started to wipe out the human population? 12% drop in 3 years is like a hundred COVID’s, China needs to get busy.

And while terraforming the Sahara sounds amazing, the law of unintended consequences might say that making such a huge change might do something really bad, like maybe tipping us back into glaciation and getting rid of most of the rest of the human infestation?

Izaak Walton
January 24, 2022 9:54 pm

Just imagine the outrage that would be expressed here if anybody in the green movement suggested a project that
would take a decades-long commitment of trillions of dollars, not just from wealthy individuals and multi-national corporations but also from the governments of the world.”

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Izaak Walton
January 24, 2022 10:06 pm

But it might actually end up with something usable, unlike spending 1000 trillion on renewable energy and still needing to keep the coal and gas plants running in reserve.

MarkW
Reply to  Izaak Walton
January 25, 2022 10:18 am

I have no complaints about people proposing projects.
People do get upset when they are forced to fund and to participate in projects that don’t benefit them in the slightest.

Why am I not surprised by the fact that Izaak doesn’t recognize a difference between proposing something and mandating something.

MarkW
Reply to  MarkW
January 25, 2022 10:18 am

If net-zero was merely a proposal, I doubt there would be anywhere as near as much anger over it.

That was supposed to be a response to Pat.

Last edited 3 months ago by MarkW
Matthew Sykes
January 24, 2022 11:12 pm

“The ancient scrolls speak about this region once being a garden,”” Because during the Holocene Warm period (2-3 C warmer than today) the Sahara was green.

michel
January 24, 2022 11:51 pm

“Here here!” Sir Branson shouted enthusiastically

Oh dear, what an embarrassing piece for Watts to have published. The rest of it is on a level with this, and the author also doesn’t seem to have a clue about the history of Spain either, which is anyway irrelevant to his main argument which appears to be about North Africa, so why he had to drag that in?

It is true that in Roman times North Africa was a main, perhaps the main, source of grain for Rome, and it also grew olives. But this was not the Sahara, but the coastal regions.

The reason for the decline of agriculture in North Africa have been discussed for years, and the extent to which it was due to climate changes or to human developments is not universally agreed. Here is a summary of the arguments:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/2560906

What seems to be certain from the historical record is that in 200-300 the region was prosperous and exporting huge amounts of produce. By 500 it wasn’t. This happened at the same time as the fall of the Roman empire, Which was cause and which effect seems unclear. The region fell to the Muslim conquests in the 7th century.

Today its still a substantial wheat producer – Morocco is the main one, but also Tunisia.

But this is a long way from greening the Sahara proper, which is what the author seems to be thinking about.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  michel
January 25, 2022 3:11 am

Above the Nasamonians*, towards the south, in the district where the wild beasts abound, dwell the Garamantians, who avoid all society or intercourse with their fellow-men, have no weapon of war, and do not know how to defend themselves. These border the Nasamonians on the south: westward along the sea-shore their neighbors are the Macea, who, by letting the locks about the crown of their head grow long, while they clip them close everywhere else, make their hair resemble a crest. In war these people use the skins of ostriches for shields. The river Cinyps rises among them from the height called “the Hill of the Graces,” and runs from thence through their country to the sea. The Hill of the Graces is thickly covered with wood, and is thus very unlike the rest of Libya, which is bare. It is distant two hundred furlongs from the sea. Adjoining the Macae are the Gindanes, whose women wear on their legs anklets of leather. Each lover that a woman has gives her one; and she who can show the most is the best esteemed, as she appears to have been loved by the greatest number of men.

Herodotus (c.490-c.425 BCE)
Nasamonians* were a nomadic Berber tribe inhabiting southeast Libya. They were believed to be a Numidian people, along with the Garamantes Wikipedia

Duane
Reply to  michel
January 25, 2022 5:53 am

Actually, no it was not the coastal areas of North Africa, but the Nile River floodplain that produced most of the grain that was consumed by Rome. It flooded every year, bringing fresh silty topsoil from the upper reaches of the Nile, and also provided a ready source of irrigation water to grow the crops.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Duane
January 25, 2022 8:56 pm

Yes but there was a lot more lush green area in Northern Africa in the Roman warm period, ruins now sit surrounded by desert

Rod Evans
January 25, 2022 12:02 am

“Terraforming the Sahara will save the world”
Save the world from what?
The greatest threat to life on Earth, all life, is misplaced political interference. The damage is continuous and seemingly it promotes the desire for yet more damage.
Examples are everywhere. The loss of the Aral sea is one very recent example. The ongoing destruction of our wild uninhabited areas by the wind turbine erectors, and the daily cull of rare raptors is another.

Last edited 3 months ago by Rod Evans
H.R.
Reply to  Rod Evans
January 25, 2022 5:57 am

Or, as George Carlin noted, “The planet doesn’t need saving.”

sturmudgeon
Reply to  H.R.
January 25, 2022 3:01 pm

Darn! You omitted his favorite adjectives.

sturmudgeon
Reply to  Rod Evans
January 25, 2022 3:01 pm

Thank You.

Lee L
January 25, 2022 1:15 am

There is an aging TED talk by Allan Savory about desertification and the means (his means) to reverse it. He IS a Sustainableist but also tells the story of his greatest blunder having recommended and overseen the eradication by gunfire of 40,000 elephants in Africa in order to stop desertification. It didn’t work as he describes.

There is, however, a surprise ending to his slowly rambling talk and it might actually have some merit. If you get bored with the first bit, skip to 15 minute mark and have patience. You won’t guess what he is proposing but you might like it.

Eric Vieira
January 25, 2022 2:16 am

It’s nice to see new ideas which would make much more sense than trying to fix the intermittent wind turbine and PV problems with more of the same. There was already the case of a person who organized the planting of trees in the Sahara region with considerable success and with much less money than is wasted elsewhere…

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Eric Vieira
January 25, 2022 7:13 am

Getting on for 50 years ago I remember what Hong a TV documentary or it may have been a cinema newsreel about someone spraying a layer of possibly crude oil on desert sand dunes in order to grow trees. The theory was it kept any moisture in the sand and stabilised the dunes by stopping the wind blowing the sand around.
Despite watching for 50 years for an update nothing has happened so I assume it failed

January 25, 2022 2:20 am

while cooling off an ecosystem that currently provides the radiative heat energy that generates destructive Atlantic hurricanes.

I wonder how the Typhoons of the Pacific are formed?
In general ocean storms are initiated by the weather over the ocean and are fueled by warm water.

Atlantic Hurricanes are formed in various ways, one of which is from tropical waves tracking west across the Sahel and reaching the ocean at the Cape Verde Islands.

The Western Sahara is too far north, see my analysis here:
West African Monsoon Crosses the Sahara Desert in Eumetsat: Monitoring Weather and Climate from Space; Date & Time : 08 August 2007 00:00 UTC; Satellites : Meteosat-9

Bruce Cobb
January 25, 2022 3:49 am

This is all just more hideously expensive and grandiose geoengineering nonsense. Not gonna happen anyway.

Gregg Eshelman
January 25, 2022 4:33 am

If a large enough chunk of the Sahara was planted it might cool the local climate enough to become self sustaining where the cooler near surface temperatures from the plant cover and irrigation reduces the mid level air temperatures to where water condenses and rains out rather than blowing across. Reducing the albedo of the Sahara by covering it with plants, including crops, would also help rain fall from the sky rather than staying stuck up there as water vapor.

Keep it going long enough, repeatedly tilling in plant waste and animal droppings, and the desert would have soil instead of sand. What would help retain irrigation water near the surface is laying down a layer of water beads 6 to 12 inches deep.They’d catch and hold a huge amount of water rather than allowing it to sink deeper out of reach of plant roots. That much Super Absorbent Polymer would be very expensive but the cost should be offset a lot by reducing the need for irrigation.

A full tropical ecosystem ought to be the goal, with the added benefits of human engineering to enable the plants to root much deeper so the system is less fragile. We know that much of the South American jungle owes its existence to humans long term fertilization of the grasslands that preceded it. There’s charcoal buried all over there, put there as fertilizer. As their civilizations collapsed they abandoned farms and the trees and other plants took advantage of the more fertile soil. Once established, the continual process of plant and animal death and decay has kept it going, though always in a fairly thin layer of supporting soil.

Centuries later, slash and burn with intensive farming, without fertilization, crop rotation or other processes to preserve the soil has removed a lot of that jungle.

Don’t mention to certain people things like fertilization and deep tilling or other methods of making the existing ‘reclaimed’ farmland fertile again. They’ll just repeat their demands that the farming has to be stopped. Nevermind the jungle would find it hard to regrow onto the depleted fields.

To make it really stick, the entire Sahara Desert would have to go. Leave no bare patch to stay hot and expand if or when irrigation is stopped or fails.

Tom in Florida
January 25, 2022 5:27 am

Why the Sahara? Why not southern Nevada. You could dam a river and use the resultant lake water to feed the area. They you could build a city, let’s say a tourist trap, with lots of gambling, food buffets and dinner shows. You could build huge hotels for all the guests. Sounds like you could make a lot of money investing in this scheme.

sturmudgeon
Reply to  Tom in Florida
January 25, 2022 3:06 pm

Just think of the ‘fertilizer’.

January 25, 2022 5:38 am

The best geoengineering of the Sahara is to burn fossil fuels to increase atmospheric CO2. Anthropogenic CO2 increase is boosting plant growth (lead level photosynthesis efficiency) by 30% and increasing plant growth worldwide, including in the Sahara.

https://ptolemy2.wordpress.com/2020/10/04/co2-fertilisation-and-the-greening-of-the-sahara/

Reply to  Phil Salmon
January 25, 2022 6:18 am

Phil, you still have to have some water…look at the current satellite greening images…the Sahara is greening to the south where there is some rain but not in the real desert.

Reply to  Anti-griff
January 25, 2022 6:35 am

Given time plants bring their own water and their own climate.

Reply to  Phil Salmon
January 25, 2022 12:58 pm

Phil, you are incorrigible…how do plants bring their own water? The Sahara became dry and the plants disappeared.

Reply to  Anti-griff
January 25, 2022 3:56 pm

The earth was arid before plants and trees colonised it in the Carboniferous. They brought their own water. Given enough time. By transpiration and maintaining humic soil, they humidify the environment.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Phil Salmon
January 25, 2022 6:19 am

Yes indeed. And, that is the best approach for economies worldwide, for humanity, and most definitely, for the environment.

sturmudgeon
Reply to  Phil Salmon
January 25, 2022 3:06 pm

Those camels prefer to consume water.

January 25, 2022 5:44 am

Terraforming the Sahara could be done. The best way would be to divert the water from the Congo river and Niger River.

Huge investments, but probably very profitable in the long run.
/Jan

Sara
January 25, 2022 5:51 am

I’m puzzled by the lack of information this person clearly shows. If you want to grow a garden, it takes more than just watering it. The proposal clearly shows a lack of knowledge about that enormous current that flows from East to West and goes up the west side of India to bring monsoon rains to farmlands up there. A few years ago, that current shifted and went to the Arabian peninsula, causing severe drought and loss of crops (particularly cotton, a major crop) in two of India’s northwestern states, as well as severe flooding in the Arabian peninsula.

When northern Africa was green and growing stuff LONG, LONG AGO, there were lakes full of fish in Ethiopia and now they’re gone. It isn’t drought; it is how things shift around. Coming out of an environment when ice sheets were everywhere, and lakes full of water were common, and rain in the Sahara was plentiful seems to have escaped the notice of the people who propose these things. There are pictographs in Ethiopia that clearly show a history of lakes, fish in those lakes, green grazing for game animals, and then everything literally went south.

I have no issues with doing something constructive and beneficial. My issues are the gadfly approach in that article. If those overpaid persons want to fork over the cash to generate ad support that project, fine. Let them. Throwing money at something frequently seems to be about the only thing that creates a “feelz good” in such people. Just don’t expect taxpayers to do that, PERIOD.

Last edited 3 months ago by Sara
H.R.
Reply to  Sara
January 25, 2022 6:04 am

Notice that all those rock paintings show animals being hunted. There are no rock paintings of salads or salad hunters.

Sara
Reply to  H.R.
January 25, 2022 8:16 am

Exactly!

Peta of Newark
January 25, 2022 5:57 am

I hope you can read the link FWI below
(Its from the UK Farmers Weekly magazine and they’re desperate for money/subscribers but mostly money)

Its an opinion piece on Jeremy Clarkson’s (Top Gear) adventures as A Farmer, Ignorant Yokel and general all-round peasant. Exactly as all the UK population understands farmers to be and in the same way they understand the GHGE
Yet, quite bizarre, when he opened a Farm Shop it promptly caused gridlock in the village and on the local roads.
But – Ye Shocke Horreur for these modern times, the villagers loved it.

https://www.fwi.co.uk/news/fw-opinion-best-legacy-of-clarksons-farm-the-copycats

Quote:”But, as with Clarkson, many minor missteps can be overlooked once it is remembered that we (as in farmers Weekly readers) are not the intended audience and that UK farming is once again getting a sympathetic hearing on primetime television.

And is it *that* big a step from UK Farming to Terraforming – is it really?

Hooda thunk, an ageing white male that folks actually like – and an outspoken one too.
Is that crazy or a source of hope?

Last edited 3 months ago by Peta of Newark
Kip Hansen(@kiphansen2)
Editor
January 25, 2022 7:37 am

Not Science Fiction! Although Rommo’s piece above is a fictional account set in the future, re-greening the Sahel is not fiction at all, but actually taking place (albeit, very slowly).

There was an Opinion piece in the NY Times that gives the story in real time.

Joao Martins
January 25, 2022 7:49 am

Muslims conquered the Iberian Peninsula in 711 and were the dominant force until being finally driven out of Spain by Roman Catholics in 1492

Allow me a bit of historical precision.

In 1492 ended the last muslim political entity of the Iberian Peninsula: rulers and ruling class changed, life went on as usual.

Muslims continued to develop agriculture, mainly in Ebro Valley and the Levant (Murcia, Valencia,…), they were a significant proportion of the peasant population.

The big change occurred by decree of Felipe III, the complete deportation of all “moriscos”, a real “ethnic cleansing”, and took place about one century latter, in 1609-13. Some accounts say that as much as 350 thousand persons were evicted to north Africa.

This empoverished the Spanish agriculture and… was a factor of technological progress in Tunisia, where many of the deported were sent; the country was living its underdevelopment under Turkish domination and the arrival of so many experienced and well trained workforce enabled the rebuilding of infrastructures (sewage, for instance) and an increase in agricultural production.

Art
January 25, 2022 10:16 am

If they want to turn the Sahara into a lush, green paradise, then they should do whatever they can to cause global warming. 6-7000 years ago, that was the reality of what is now the desert, during the Holocene Climate Optimum when it was considerably warmer than now.

TonyG
January 25, 2022 10:21 am

“which featured a terraforming device called the Genesis Device”
– with disastrous consequences

“takes place in the future when Mars has been terraformed”
– took place over many generations and was nowhere NEAR complete.

Do they ever actually watch the stuff they reference?

I’ll leave it to others to discuss unintended consequences.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  TonyG
January 25, 2022 8:52 pm

Not to mention they used unstable protomatter as the matrix of the genesis torpedo, so the planet destroys itself after destroying all the existing life first.

I mean really, who uses protomatter for anything?
Very unscientific

Andy Pattullo
January 25, 2022 10:33 am

Enviroloons’ fantasy wet dreams are not science any more than 90 day fiancé is a tribute to human decency. Peddling this nonsense is just another distraction that keeps people from addressing the truth:

  1. Climate change is real, natural and not especially worrisome till we start drifting down into massive glaciation again.
  2. Human society has some effect on climate and environment but we don’t control either and our impact is much less than our imagination tells us.
  3. There is an energy cost to everything we do or plan to do and the self-anointed “visionaries” of the world who aren’t constrained by reality have usually never considered the energy budget or the means to fund it.
  4. When those same “visionaries” get together in exotic locations to plot the remainder of my life and that of my family I would just as soon lock them in there to live out heir fantasies in private and away from the machine of civilization which they can only sabotage with their ignorance. Doesn’t matter how famous, rich or conceited one is, it doesn’t guarantee intelligence.
Ed Zuiderwijk
January 25, 2022 11:34 am

Eh?

john harmsworth
January 25, 2022 2:56 pm

A chemistry prof. who speaks to a room full of movers and shakers including government people about terraforming as applied to a region of Earth? I think we’re way past Alice in Wonderland. No estimates, no plan; but future rewards will justify the expense? If it’s an investment without any doubt of the payback, let the private capital take care of it!

I will choose not to invest in it until I see a budget and a plan. The Egyptians and others in NorthEast Africa might want to know what the plan is for all that Nile water, as well.

Th every idea that these fools can seriously talk about public investment of taxpayer money in this goofus idea is hugely offensive to me.

How is it that a little warming bringing a little greenery to the tundra- for free- is a climate crisis but the total alteration of the Sahara is automatically a good thing?

never mind the fact that the world’s population will be falling long before this project make s a dent and all that new but marginal farmland will be unable to grow anything profitably while damaging agricultural prices for the entire world.

The stupid-it burns! And are so stupid they are dangerous.

Crisp
January 25, 2022 3:45 pm

So where is the technical and engineering analysis? Where is the environmental analysis? Where is the financial analysis, especially of ROI? Where is the economic analysis, especially of opportunity cost? Without that, this is all unicorns farting rainbows and the chances of failure with dipsticks like this in charge is close to 100%.

Brett McS
January 26, 2022 1:56 am

Australia would be a better option.

Paul C
January 26, 2022 5:44 am

What they are they proposing seems to ignore the UN biodiversity ban on geoengineering. This ban has stifled efforts at ocean fertilisation, while natural ocean fertilisation from the iron-rich Sahara dust storms continues. Is this an effort to prevent that natural ocean fertilisation too? Or would iron fertilisation of the oceans then be permitted to replace the natural supply inhibited by this geoengineering project? I do think that an inland sea with enhanced salt concentration in an area with extreme heat would be a useful resource for sea-salt production – like the salt pans producing Dead Sea Salts.

Tom Schaefer
January 26, 2022 7:19 am

Suggest readers pursue an alternate take on “la conviviencia” at Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch.org .

Andy Espersen
January 27, 2022 6:58 am

Just happened to see this now – scrolled through the comments (took me two minutes) – laughed aloud because everybody (perhaps I am wrong here) took this highly amusing, quite entertaining article seriously.

Reply to  Andy Espersen
February 3, 2022 6:16 pm

Bravo! It is after all, “Cli-Fi” (climate fiction).

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