Scientists Say Refreezing Earth’s Poles Is Possible and Remarkably Low-cost

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Planet Earth Panoramic Arctic

In response to new analysis, refreezing the poles by lowering incoming daylight could be each possible and remarkably low cost.

Earth’s poles are warming a number of instances quicker than the worldwide common. In truth, record-smashing heatwaves have been reported earlier this yr in each the Arctic and Antarctic. Melting ice and collapsing glaciers at excessive latitudes would speed up sea degree rise across the planet. Thankfully, it could be each possible and remarkably low cost to refreeze the poles by lowering incoming daylight. That is in keeping with new analysis printed on September 15, 2022, in IOP Publishing’s Environmental Analysis Communications.

Scientists laid out a potential future geoengineering program whereby high-flying jets would spray microscopic aerosol particles into the ambiance at latitudes of 60 levels north and south – roughly Anchorage and the southern tip of Patagonia. If injected at a peak of 43,000 toes / 13,000 meters (above airliner cruising altitudes), these aerosols would slowly drift poleward, shading the floor beneath barely.

“There may be widespread and wise trepidation about deploying aerosols to chill the planet,” notes lead writer Wake Smith, “but when the danger/profit equation have been to repay anyplace, it could be on the poles.” Smith is a lecturer at Yale University and a Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School.

Particle injections would be performed seasonally in the long days of the local spring and early summer. Both hemispheres could be serviced by the same fleet of jets, ferrying to the opposite pole with the change of seasons.

Tabular Iceberg Floating Within Paradise Harbour, Antarctica

A tabular iceberg floating within Paradise Harbour, Antarctica. Credit: IOP Publishing

Pre-existing military air-to-air refueling tankers such as the aged KC-135 and the A330 MMRT don’t have enough payload at the required altitudes. However, newly designed high-altitude tankers would prove much more efficient. A fleet of roughly 125 such tankers could loft a payload sufficient to cool the regions poleward of 60°N/S by 2°C per year. This would be enough to return them close to their pre-industrial average temperatures. Annual costs are estimated at $11 billion. This is less than one-third the cost of cooling the entire planet by the same 2°C magnitude and just a tiny fraction of the cost of reaching net zero emissions.

“Game-changing though this could be in a rapidly warming world, stratospheric aerosol injections merely treat a symptom of climate change but not the underlying disease. It’s aspirin, not penicillin. It’s not a substitute for decarbonization,” says Smith.

Cooling at the poles would provide direct protection for only a small portion of the planet. However, the mid-latitudes should also experience some temperature reduction. Since less than 1% of the global human population lives in the target deployment zones, a polar deployment would entail much less direct risk to most of humanity than a global program.

“Nonetheless, any intentional turning of the global thermostat would be of common interest to all of humanity and not merely the province of Arctic and Patagonian nations,” adds Smith.

In summary, the current study is just a small and preliminary step towards understanding the costs, benefits, and risks of undertaking climate intervention at high latitudes. It provides further reason to believe that such tools could prove useful both in preserving the cryosphere near the poles and slowing global sea level rise.

Reference: “A subpolar-focused stratospheric aerosol injection deployment scenario” by Wake Smith, Umang Bhattarai, Douglas G MacMartin, Walker Raymond Lee, Daniele Visioni, Ben Kravitz and Christian V Rice, 15 September 2022, Environmental Research Communications.
DOI: 10.1088/2515-7620/ac8cd3



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