Is it possible to reverse the effects of climate change? Scientists are looking for strategies to reverse environmental harm as climate change increases.
Professor Sir David King speaks with Gideon Rachman on the spate of environmental calamities that have struck the world this summer.
With the IPCC report this week showing that climate change is speeding up, Sir King believes that aiming for net-zero emissions is no longer enough; we must employ technology to restore damage to the polar ice caps.
As the world approaches climatic disaster, fringe ideas are making their way into the mainstream. Geoengineering is one of the concepts that were formerly taboo but is now gaining popularity.
And it includes some very far-fetched ideas, such as pouring large volumes of seawater onto the ice's surface, where it will refreeze faster and fortify the entire icepack against melting.
The notion of refreezing both poles has been presented. However, it would be highly costly. However, according to recent research, preserving Arctic sea ice will do nothing to reduce the global climate catastrophe. And it would have unforeseen and startling effects in the Arctic.
The article, published in Earth's Futures, is based on a prior study that first suggested the possibility of Arctic geoengineering. That research proposed installing wind turbines across the Arctic to power pumps that would pull water to the surface of the remaining sea ice, where it would refreeze more quickly than if it were frozen from the bottom up.
To be sure, it seems a little (OK, a lot) extreme, but the Arctic, which is quickly warming, needs all the support it can get. Moreover, the ancient sea ice that used to keep the ice pack together is nearly gone, and the ice-free Arctic may be seen as early as the next decade if carbon pollution isn't reduced.
However, while prior studies demonstrated that installing wind turbines was physically possible, they did not examine the climatic implications. "This geoengineering notion has never been evaluated using a climate model," Lorenzo Zampieri, the new study's primary author and Ph.D. student at Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute, told Earther, "and, in our opinion, this was a crucial step to contextualize this approach."
The scientists utilized a sophisticated climate model to see how the strategy might affect the Arctic. First, they simulated various scenarios, including saltwater was poured over the whole sea ice sheet.
According to the model, ice may grow up to 65 meters (213 feet) thick for the rest of the century, a significant increase over the historical average of 1.8 meters (6 feet).
Is it Enough?
The bad news is that the procedure will drastically affect the environment in the Arctic while doing relatively little to address global warming. Healthy, reflecting ice that lasts all summer would help to restore the late summer Arctic climate to its former glory.
This sort of modeling will be critical for understanding the alternatives available to us in the future decade. As the climate we rely on continues to disintegrate, other types of geoengineering, such as limiting sunlight or conducting large reforestation initiatives to suck carbon out of the air, are gaining traction.
The idea that we can merely adopt a few technological fixes to buy time while the rest of the world gets its act together and reduce emissions is appealing. Still, the truth is that they will almost certainly come with compromises and unpleasant shocks of their own.
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