The poles are heating up at an alarming rate, but until now, nobody has come up with an excellent plan that doesn’t involve changing our habits and self-sacrifice in our fossil fuel consumption.
In the last year, both the Arctic and the Antarctic have experienced heat waves that have broken all previous records. If this trend continues, it could lead to melting ice and collapsing glaciers at high latitudes, resulting in rising sea levels across the planet.
Spraying microscopic particles into the atmosphere to cast a shade over the poles
According to new research, it would be possible to cut down on the amount of sunlight that reaches the poles by spraying microscopic particles into the atmosphere. This would have the effect of casting a slight shade over the surface below and would be remarkably affordable.
Scientists have outlined a potential future geoengineering program in which high-flying jets spray microscopic aerosol particles into the atmosphere at latitudes of sixty degrees north and south, roughly equivalent to Anchorage and the southernmost tip of Patagonia. If these aerosols were injected at the height of 43,000 feet/13,000 meters (above the cruising altitudes of airplanes), they would slowly drift poleward and cast a slight shade over the surface below.
Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School says ‘Yes’ to cooling the poles with aerosols
According to Wake Smith, a Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School, there is widespread and understandable fear about deploying aerosols to cool the planet. Still, in the case of the poles, where the ice is rapidly melting, he considers that the benefit outweighs the risk.
The seasonal administration of particle injections would take place during the longer days of the local spring and early summer months. The same fleet of jets could provide service to both hemispheres, ferrying passengers to the opposite pole to coincide with the changing of the seasons.
Investing in new fleet of high-altitude tankers
Unfortunately, aging military air-to-air refueling tankers KC-135 and the A330 MMRT do not have a sufficient payload to do the job. However, scientists say that investing in a new fleet of high-altitude tankers could help reduce the planet’s temperature by 2 degrees Celsius yearly, at a fraction of the cost of other cooling methods.
The researchers believe that this method would be sufficient to bring them back to temperatures close to what they were before industrialization. It is estimated that the annual costs will be $11 billion. This is less than one-third of the cost of cooling the entire planet by the same magnitude of 2 degrees Celsius, and it is just a tiny fraction of the cost of reaching net zero emissions.
Aspirin for the Planet? Stratospheric Injections Only Treat for Symptom of Climate Change
Even though this could be a game-changer in a rapidly warming world, it should be noted from this research that stratospheric aerosol injections are not a cure for climate change. Researchers say this method only treats a symptom of the problem, not the issue itself. ‘It’s not penicillin; it’s aspirin,’ states Smith, who says “decarbonization” cannot be accomplished with this method. This means we must find other ways to reduce our carbon emissions to prevent further damage to our planet.
If the polar regions got colder, only a small part of the planet would be directly protected from global warming. But temperatures in the mid-latitudes of the equator should also drop a little bit. Since less than 1% of the world’s population lives in the target deployment zones, a polar deployment would pose a much lower direct threat to most people on the planet compared to a global program.
We can save the planet by cooling it down!
The study considers that by artificially cooling the Earth’s atmosphere, we could offset the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and slow down the rate of global warming. While the idea of intentionally cooling the planet may sound far-fetched, the researchers say it’s a viable option that should be seriously considered in the fight against climate change.
Any intentional turning of the global thermostat would be of common interest to all humanity and not just the province of Arctic and Patagonian nations, advised Smith, the study’s lead researcher.
The study provides an additional reason to believe that such tools could be helpful in both the preservation of the cryosphere close to the poles and slowing the global rise in sea level.
Can a new fleet of high-altitude tankers stop the “End of the World”?
If this advice is taken on board, it looks like someone will be making a lot of money from a contract to develop a fleet of high-altitude tankers, replenishing them with aerosol (possibly a job for Boeing or Airbus, the manufactures of the KC-135 and the A330 MMRT). More importantly, the planet will be saved!
We’re not talking about a little bit of global warming here. We’re talking about the end of the world as we know it. And we’re talking about a solution that costs less than one-third of the cost of cooling the entire planet by the same magnitude of 2 degrees Celsius. That’s a pretty good deal, don’t you think?
As stated by Smith, this plan doesn’t address decarbonization, so people are not off the hook yet. Still, it may protect us from the effects of global warming and make decarbonization this or the next generation’s problem.
Who knows if this works on the poles, it could also become a solution to prevent the ice glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau from melting, which scientists fear could release trapped dangerous microbes into the Yangtze River, Yellow River, as well as the Ganges River.