Why Would We Want To Green The Desert?
Greening the Australian desert would be the greatest terraforming feat ever. Doing so would open up millions of kilometres of land to agriculture and industry. It would create many new rivers, lakes and perhaps even an inland sea, allowing multiple new cities to be built. It would allow a place for Australia to expand into and would elevate us to the ranks of a country such as the USA or China. If we ever did do it, it would be the biggest investment that we ever made. But if it worked, the return on would be trillions of dollars and continued prosperity. There are also environmental implications. If grasslands, or better yet, forests were formed in the Australian dessert that would mean billions more plants sucking in CO2. It wouldn’t stop man made climate change but it would slow it down.
Why Wouldn’t We Want To Green The Desert?
There is one major reason, cost:
The program may not work and the land may evetually turn back to dessert. This would mean the loss of BILLIONS of dollars. Even if the program was sucesful, the Australian economy would take years to recover and we could be in massive debt.
Another reason is the destruction of the Australian desert ecosystems:
Greening the Australian desert would also cause the destruction of the Australian desert ecosystem which has existed for thousands of years. This would require addaptations for those who live in the Australian outback. There are also many farms and ranches in the Australian outback which would need to by built on.
How Can We Do It?
Well, it is going to be difficult. There is more than one way to green the Australian desert and in order to succesfully carry out this project, you would likely have to conduct multiple programs. But lets begin:
- The Great Green Wall:
The great green wall is a project currently under way in Africa. The objective of the project is to plant a massive wall of trees, 15km wide and 8000km long across the bottom of the Sahara. The project is estimated to cost 8 billion dollars. A lot, yes but, considering the size of the project, planting trees over 120,000 square kilometres. This can be done in Australia. And because of increased automation, we may be able to do it cheaper.
The Australian desert is roughly 1,300,000 square kilometres. So if we assume that we Australians can do it for a bit cheaper than the African countries along the Sahara (which we almost may be able to do) the project would cost roughly 80 billion dollars. This is a lot, however the project can be streched out over a few years and completed. Of course the trees will need to be watered but we can just assume that irrigation is included.
2. Flooding Lake Eyre:
Lake Eyre is an astonishingly large lake, at 15m below sea level. It is located in the South of the Australian desert and can be seen from space! The lower part of lake Eyre (the sort of mouth below) is roughy 400km from the ocean. If Lake Eyre was flooded, it would increase rainfall in that area of the desert and increase precipitation.
In order to do this, water will need to be pumped from the ocean to Lake Torrens, 200km away so that it would flow into Lake Eyre. The water will also need to be desalinated. Lake Eyre is already very salty and if sea water is pumped into the lake it wont help plants grow around it. So, flooding Lake Eyre would be very expensive and would green a smaller area of the desert (if any at all).
There are other ways to green the desert. Artificialy created clouds, pumping water from the artisian basin to create lakes, rivers and streams or creating mountains in the desert so that rivers and streams will form at its base. However all of these methods are have various problems. Despite this, the first method is actually pretty viable and may work if executed properly. Perhaps one day it will happen, I hope so.
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