Green Sahara

In an effort to fight climatic changes, we are taking many steps. The people also the governments all over the world are keen on reducing the risks. People are growing trees in their lawns to keep their environment cool. Trees are a great solution to cool down the earth and reduce the amount of Carbon dioxide in the environment. What if I say the Sahara could be made into a forest with green trees everywhere. Plans are being made to terraform the entire Sahara desert, changing it from a dry, barren land to a lush green space. If successful, the transformation could remove 7.6 billion tons of atmospheric carbon yearly. How could we change the nature of such a vast, isolated land?  Could we afford it’s giant price tag? Have we ever done anything like this before? In this blog, we’ll see what would happen if we terraformed the Sahara Desert.

The Sahara desert is 8.6 million km² (3.32 million mi²) in size. It is roughly the size of America. Terraforming an area this massive wouldn’t be easy, in fact, it would cost about $2 trillion a year. Not only this, there are many obstacles in our way. This price tag would be just the beginning of our obstacles. What kind of environmental domino effect would it create? Plants and trees are the lungs of the Earth, and now we could use a lot more of them. A single hectare of trees can absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide that a man would produce by driving a car for 100,000 kilometres. If we could successfully terraform the Sahara, it would result in millions of hectares of treesbeing added to the battle against climatic changes. All that sounds great, but what are the odds we could pull this kind of transformation off? We already have, just on a smaller scale. China’s Kubuqi Ecological Restoration Project saw the successful greening of one- third of the Kubuqi Desert with 70 different plant species over a 30-year timespan.

How to scale that up for the largest desert on earth? We can plant crops and trees and then pump desalinated water from the coast of the Sahara to irrigate them. To prevent evaporation, the water should be carried by underground pipes directly to the roots. The idea would be to plant Eucalyptus trees because they are hardy, and grow well in hotter climates. Also they grow quickly and could be economically beneficial for the region. As the trees began to root and stabilise, the soil would be replenished with needed nutrients, rainfall amount would increase and the overall temperature of the Sahara would cool by 8°C. Why aren’t we going fast to do that. Not only the funding but also terraforming the desert would come with a fair share of issues.

As the region becomes wet due to the plantation of millions of trees, it may lead to the increase of locust attack. A small swarm eats more than what 2500 people can eat in a day. But the biggest problem apart from this is the environmental domino effect it would create. The Sahara sand gets carried away by the wind and crosses the Atlantic Ocean to deposit in the Amazon forest. The dust picks up moisture and when it falls from the sky rain comes along with it. This dust and rain combination provides the Amazon ecosystem the water that it needs and also fertilizes it. If the Sahara is covered by trees, there would be no Amazon rainforest. So even though the green Sahara reduces the carbon, it would indirectly affect another part of the planet and may lead to its destruction.