Can earth’s poles be re-freezed to slow down global warming? How feasible is the plan.
Various geoengineering schemes have been proposed that would alter the terrestrial albedo by reflecting or modifying shortwave solar radiation.
The poles of Earth are getting warmer faster than the global average. This is evidenced by the record-breaking heatwaves that occurred earlier this year in both the Antarctic and the Arctic. As a result, the collapse of high-latitude glaciers and the melting of ice at the poles could contribute to sea level rise. Fortunately, it is possible to refreeze these regions by reducing the incoming sunlight. According to a new study published on September 15, 2022, this is feasible and incredibly cheap.
How scientists proposed refreezing poles using aerosols
In order to address the issue of climate change, scientists proposed a geoengineering program that involves spraying tiny aerosol particles into the air at a height of around 43,000 feet. These particles would then slowly drift toward the poles, which would help minimize the effects of climate change.
Despite the widespread skepticism about the idea of using aerosols to combat climate change, the study noted that this strategy could potentially work at the poles. Wake Smith, the lead author of the study, is a lecturer at Yale and a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School.
The goal of the program is to deliver the particles at the right time to the poles, which would be done in the spring and early summer. The jets would then ferry the particles to the other side of the globe.
Currently, the military’s air-to-air refuelling tankers are mainly equipped with outdated aircraft, such as the A330 and the K-135. However, modern high-altitude tankers can carry much more payload. A fleet of about 125 such aircraft could provide a cooling effect to the poles by delivering a payload of around 2 degrees Celsius per year.
This would allow the jets to deliver a cooling effect that would keep the poles at their pre-industrial temperatures. The cost of this project is estimated at $11 billion annually. It’s less than one-third of the cost of cooling the planet.
Limitations of the hypothetical poles freezing process
Despite the potential game-changing effects of climate change, Smith noted that this strategy is not a replacement for the efforts to decarbonize the planet. Instead, it merely treats a symptom of climate change.
The cooling effect at the poles would only protect a small portion of the planet. The mid-latitudes would also experience some cooling. Since the vast majority of the world’s population lives in areas where polar deployment is planned, it would be less harmful than a global program.
Even if the global temperature were to be intentionally lowered, this strategy would still be of interest to everyone on Earth.
The study was only a small step in the development of this strategy. It’s still important to note that the costs, risks, and benefits of this project are still unknown. However, it provides further evidence that this strategy could potentially help slow down global sea level rise and preserve the cryosphere.