Could Refreezing the North and South Poles Reverse Global Warming?

Global warming could be reversed by refreezing the poles, according to new research published in the journal Environmental Research Communication. Restoring the Earth’s ice caps at its north and south poles would result by blocking the sun and maintaining weather patterns.

The ambitious idea sounds like a crazy plot out of a sci-fi blockbuster — but it’s “both doable and remarkably cheap,” researchers claim. Planes would fly over the Arctic and Antarctic spraying particles – known as stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI). They fight greenhouse gases by dimming starlight, thereby cooling the entire planet, the US team says.

Lead author Professor Wake Smith of Yale University said: “It would attempt to mitigate climate change by reflecting a small portion of the incoming solar radiation back into space.”

The Kviarjokull glacier creates a reflection in the lake
The receding Kviarjokull glacier is reflected in a lake of its own meltwater near Hof, Iceland on August 15, 2021. Breidamerkurjokull, one of the largest of the dozens of glaciers descending from the Vatnajokull Ice Cap, is melting and losing an average of 100 to 300 meters in length annually. Global warming could be reversed by refreezing the poles, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Communications.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images via Zenger

The study found that this would only have to be done in the sub-polar regions. Previous proposals have suggested using the technique around the world. It would quickly envelop the poles and could halt or reverse the melting of ice and permafrost at high latitudes – and halt sea level rise.

Operating effectively at much lower altitudes than would be required in the tropics also poses fewer aeronautical challenges.

“Our model estimates the cost of implementing the sub-polar SAI program at $11 billion annually in 2022,” Smith said.

“This is less than a third of the estimated $36 billion needed to lower global surface temperatures by 2°C [35.6 degrees Fahrenheit (F)].”

Most of the savings come from the much smaller area and fewer aircraft carrying five times the payload at much lower altitudes than, for example, covering the tropics. Operating costs also included crew, insurance, maintenance and ground, navigation and landing fees.

Smith said, “The Arctic faces a particularly severe threat from climate change, which is warming at about twice the global average.”

The annual mean surface temperature increased by over 3 degrees Celsius (37.4 degrees F) between 1971 and 2019. September sea ice extent from 2010 to 2019 was 40 percent less than from 1979 to 1988.

“By mid-century, if not sooner, summer Arctic sea ice will likely be virtually gone, with potentially catastrophic climate consequences for the entire planet,” Smith said.

Antarctica is also warming faster than the planetary average — a potential “tipping point” in climate change with the melting of the ice sheet.

Smith said, “Stratospheric aerosol injection is a prospective intervention aimed at reducing global warming by slightly increasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s upper atmosphere.”

It is not a substitute for other strategies, including carbon mitigation, adaptation and removal, he stressed. “The vast majority of simulations involve the global deployment of aerosols to lower temperatures around the world,” he said.

“This paper considers an alternative scenario where SAI could only be deployed in the sub-polar regions.”

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has drawn a “sobering picture,” he added.

The average global surface temperature in the years 2011-2020 was 1.09 °C (33.962 degrees F) higher than in the years 1850-1900. By 2018, the global average sea level had already risen 8 inches since 1901.

Smith said: “Under all of the common socioeconomic pathways that serve as the basis for IPCC-assessed climate projections, global surface temperatures will continue to rise until at least mid-century.

“Perhaps most worryingly, many changes caused by past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia.”

Fjallsarlon Glacier in Iceland
A vast landscape shows broken ice caps on Fjallsarlon Glacier in Iceland. Global warming can be reversed by refreezing the poles, according to new research published in the journal Environmental Research Communications.
Shutterstock/Zenger

Record-breaking heatwaves were reported in both the Arctic and Antarctic earlier this year. Melting ice and collapsing glaciers at high latitudes would accelerate sea level rise around the planet.

Smith said: “Fortunately, refreezing the poles by reducing the incoming sunlight would be both feasible and remarkably cheap.

“We suggest injecting only in the spring and early summer months, ie March to June in the northern hemisphere and September to December in the southern hemisphere.

“Since the intended effect of the deployment is to deflect incoming sunlight, deployment would have limited impact during the local winter as there is little sunlight in the region.”

He added: “An SAI program with global benefits that would entail direct engagement of far less than 1 percent of the world’s population and almost no agriculture might prove easier to sell to a skeptical world than full-scale global engagement.” .

“Given its obvious feasibility and low cost, this scenario deserves further attention.”

Produced in collaboration with SWNS talker.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

https://www.newsweek.com/could-refreezing-north-south-poles-reverse-global-warming-1744228 Could Refreezing the North and South Poles Reverse Global Warming?

Rick Schindler

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