According to Scientists, the Earth’s Poles Can be Refrozen, and it is Remarkably Inexpensive

The Earth’s Poles are warming considerably more quickly than the rest of the planet. In fact, this year’s early reports from the Arctic and Antarctic noted heatwaves that broke records. Sea level rise would be accelerated globally by melting ice and collapsing glaciers at high latitudes. Fortunately, by lowering the amount of sunlight reaching the poles, it would be possible and astonishingly affordable to refreeze them. This is supported by a new study released on September 15, 2022, in Environmental Research Communications by IOP Publishing.

According to a recent study, utilizing Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI) of heat-reflective particles targeted at the poles, it is “possible at relatively low cost with existing technology” to cool the poles by 2°C (3.6 °F) and refreeze the Arctic and Antarctic. The concept offers a chance to prevent the catastrophic sea level rise predicted as polar ice melts, albeit the side effects could be unpleasant and the politics nearly impossible.

High-flying aircraft would shoot microscopic aerosol particles into the atmosphere at latitudes of 60 degrees north and south, or roughly Anchorage and the southernmost tip of Patagonia, as part of a geoengineering program that could be implemented in the future. These aerosols would slowly float poleward if injected at 43,000 feet (13,000 meters), modestly darkening the land below.

According to senior author Wake Smith, “there is widespread and understandable apprehension about using aerosols to cool the world, but if the risk/benefit equation were to pay off anyplace, it would be at the poles.” Smith is a lecturer at Yale University and a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government.

During the long local spring and early summer days, particle injections would be carried out on a seasonal basis. With the shift of the seasons, the same fleet of planes could convey passengers to the other pole and serve both hemispheres.

The KC-135 and A330 MMRT, two outdated military air-to-air refueling tankers, lack sufficient payload at the necessary altitudes. However, high-altitude tankers that have just been developed would be far more effective. Such tankers could loft a cargo large enough to cool the areas poleward of 60°N/S by 2°C annually with a fleet of about 125 of them. With just this, they may get back to temperatures very similar to pre-industrial times. Costs are projected to be USD 11 billion annually. This costs just a minuscule fraction of what would cool the entire planet by the same 2°C and less than one-third of what it would achieve net zero emissions.

Even though it can potentially change the course of history in a quickly warming world, stratospheric aerosol injections only address the surface symptoms of climate change. Not penicillin, but aspirin. “It’s not a replacement for decarbonization,” according to Smith.

Only a small world would have direct protection from cooling near the poles. However, a slight drop in temperature should also occur in the mid-latitudes. A polar deployment would involve significantly less immediate risk to the majority of humanity than a worldwide program because less than 1% of the world’s population resides in the intended deployment zones.

“However, any deliberate lowering of the global temperature would be of shared interest to all of humanity and not just the domain of Arctic and Patagonian nations,” Smith continues.

The enormously divisive SAI concept was motivated by the cooling effects that frequently accompany significant volcanic eruptions. Large volumes of dust, ash, and often sulfur dioxide are ejected into the air during these natural phenomena. Sulfur dioxide tends to rise high into the stratosphere, interacting with water molecules to form sulfuric acid particles. It remains there for up to three years, reflecting solar radiation away and producing a long-lasting surface cooling effect. The first two have a shaded impact, resulting in a cooling effect lasting for a few hours.

To simulate the cooling effect of a volcano, sulfur dioxide is loaded onto high-altitude airplanes, which are then flown around and sprayed with the gas at great heights. However, sulfuric acid eventually departs the atmosphere by mixing into bigger droplets, which grow heavy enough to fall to Earth as acid rain, which is unsuitable for plant life, fish life, or animals. Additionally, all sulfur oxides are unpleasant to breathe since they damage the lungs and, if inhaled frequently, can lead to asthma and bronchitis.

It should go without saying that no scientist wants to add sulfur to the atmosphere, drown the last remaining polar bears and penguins in acid rain, or provide carbon emitters with any justifications for not reducing their emissions. However, given the current events, humanity is stuck between a rock and a hard place because summer sea ice in the Arctic will essentially vanish by 2050 or before.

As a result, research into SAI is moving forward swiftly. Focusing it at the poles—a strategy known as subpolar deployment—might produce more excellent results for a lot less money and acid rain than a global model.

Gloria Flynt

I am a Research Content Specialist in Update.co.ke. I have been working with update.co.ke for over 6 months. Update.co.ke is a digital platform that provides news and analysis on business, economy, technology and entrepreneurship in worldwide. I love reading and writing about anything that has to do with science, technology, and developments in the digital world.

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