The ice caps are melting. Is geoengineering the solution?

Since 1979 Arctic sea ice has shrunk by 1.35 million square milesnew JPL education The ice loss found in Greenland is much worse than previously thought and Antarctic ice is now at its lowest level since records began. The more they melt, the faster the ice declines until we face a series of catastrophes. The most urgent of these is sea level rise, which threatens to wipe out entire low-lying island nations. How can we prevent such a problem? Even if we solve the long-term problems of fossil fuel consumption, we may have to give ourselves more time with geoengineering.

The seriousness of this situation cannot be overemphasized. Professor John Moore of the University of Lapland’s Arctic Center says we are long past the point where emissions reductions alone will be effective. “We are faced with this situation where there is no way to 1.5 [degrees] can be achieved through mitigation,” he said. “Things like ice sheets [melting] and other turning points will happen no matter what,” he said, adding that Earth’s current state is like a bleeding patient on an operating table, adding that “we are in a situation where we can’t get ourselves out of a bad situation.”

Moore is one of the figures left behind Frozen ArcticReport prepared by the universities of Arctic and Lapland together with the UN-backed GRID-Arendal think tank. This summary of sixty geoengineering projects this can slow or reverse polar melting. A team of researchers decided to investigate every idea, from those that already exist to those that are on the fringes of science. “We wanted to be comprehensive,” Moore said, “because even the craziest idea can have a golden nugget.” A brief analysis is given of each approach, examining whether it is scientifically or practically feasible, potentially useful, and how much it would cost. The report even went so far as to look at pykrete, a World War II initiative to create artificial glaciers for strategic use by mixing sawdust or paper products with ice.

If you’re interested and don’t have a day or two to read the report yourself, you can narrow down the approaches to a few categories. The first is Solar Radiation Management, which means making the polar regions more reflective to bounce off more solar heat. Second, there is artificial ice production to compensate for what has already been lost. Third, huge engineering efforts are underway to solidify, insulate, and protect the remaining ice—like giant underwater walls that act as a barrier against the seas as they warm. Finally, there are measures that nibble at the edges of the problem in terms of impact, but have more long-term success, such as preventing flora and fauna (and the heat they emit) from penetrating into regions meant to remain frozen.

If you’re a climate scientist, probably the most obvious approach is the first, because we’ve seen the positive effects of it before. Albedo is a climate science term that describes how white ice acts as a giant reflector that bounces off much of the sun’s heat. Ice ages increase albedo dramatically, but there are more recent examples in living memory: In 1991, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted, spewing large amounts of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. (The event also caused massive damage, displaced 200,000 people and killed at least 722.) NOAA, the ash ejected into the atmosphere helped deflect much of the sun’s heat away from Earth, causing a temporary global cooling effect of about 1.5 degrees Celsius. Pinatubo’s destruction is not desirable, nor is the ozone layer it causes, but this cooling effect could be vital to slowing global warming and polar melt.

This can be done artificially by seeding the clouds with chemicals dropped by an airplane or by ground-based smoke generators that can be used to encourage rain clouds. This is a tactic already used in China to make it rain for agriculture alleviate drought-like conditions. In this context, clouds will act as a barrier between the sun and the ice sheets, diverting more of the solar radiation away from the Earth’s surface. Unfortunately, the problem with this approach is that it is incredibly expensive and incredibly inconvenient. That’s only viable if the right clouds are overhead, the report says, and the job would require building massive infrastructure nearby. Although we have some small evidence that it might be helpful, it’s not proven yet.

And then there are second-order effects when these approaches spread to the rest of the global ecosystem. “If you do solar reflection techniques and you put something in the atmosphere, it’s not going to stay where you put it.” This is Dr. Emeritus Associate Professor at the University of East Anglia and a former contributor to the foundation stone of the UN. It’s a big problem identified by Phil Williamson. Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. His concern is that regional, targeted climate solutions “don’t solve the problem for the whole world” and that if you’re not tackling climate change globally, then you’re “just highlighting the difference”. With a cold arctic but rising temperatures elsewhere, you’re on a climate rollercoaster.

Second in the list of mayor climate approaches is building a freezer to both cool existing ice and make more. Unfortunately, many ideas in this field forget that ice sheets are not just big immovable blocks of ice and actually have to move. Take the idea of ​​drilling about two miles into an ice sheet and pumping warm water to cool it: Because of the ever-changing ice and water, new space must be dug fairly regularly.

There’s another problem: One project burned 450,000 liters of fuel to dig a hole 2.5 km (1.5 miles) deep, the report said. There’s no telling how much energy it would take to run heat exchangers or freezers to create fresh ice on such a scale. This is a significant amount of greenhouse gas pollution for a project designed to address the exact damage. Dumping a layer of artificial snow on a mountain might work well for a ski resort when the powder is a bit finer, but not for the entire planet.

As difficult as the scientific and engineering battles are, there are also political battles to be fought. “A lot of people get religiously upset about putting things in the stratosphere,” said Professor John Moore, “and you’d think they’d be equally upset about greenhouse gases.” One strategy being considered is injecting sulfur into the atmosphere to replicate the cooling effects seen after large volcanic eruptions. Sulfur It will produce SO2, forming thick layers of dense clouds to prevent more heat from reaching the ice, but if you have a high school science background like mine, it’s a scary prospect considering it will dissolve sulfur dioxide. sulfuric acid. Given the microscopic quantities involved, it would have little effect on the natural world. But the imagery of acid rain falling from the clouds means it will be a tough sell to the uninformed population.

But if it is a cause for concern, any unintended consequences could spell trouble in the global political space. “It’s almost like declaring war on the rest of the world [a nation] Phil Williamson says that because any damage or change to the global climate system, the country that does it is responsible for all future climate disasters because the weather is not the same.

Of course Moore knows this Frozen Arctic the results of the report are not very optimistic about a quick fix. He believes his findings should serve as a wake-up call for the planet. “No one is going to grow something for the entire Arctic Ocean overnight,” he said, but this is “a time to find ideas that might be valuable.” […] and then put the resources to find [those ideas] It’s really useful.” He added that the short deadline before total climate catastrophe isn’t much of a problem, and that “engineers can do anything you ask them to do if you put enough resources into it.” Because the alternative is to do nothing and “nothing Every day we choose not to do, we are more accepting of future harm.”

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