Refreezing Earth’s Poles: Feasible and Cheap, New Study Finds
“Fortunately, refreezing the poles by reducing incoming sunlight would be both feasible and remarkably cheap, according to new research published Friday in Environmental Research Communications.”
Scientists laid out a possible future program whereby high-flying jets would spray microscopic aerosol particles into the atmosphere at latitudes of 60 degrees north and south — roughly Anchorage and the southern tip of Patagonia. If injected at a height of 43,000 feet (above airliner cruising altitudes), these aerosols would slowly drift poleward, slightly shading the surface beneath. “There is widespread and sensible trepidation about deploying aerosols to cool the planet,” notes lead author Wake Smith, “but if the risk/benefit equation were to pay off anywhere, it would be at the poles.”
Particle injections would be performed seasonally in the long days of the local spring and early summer. The same fleet of jets could service both hemispheres, ferrying to the opposite pole with the change of seasons.
newly designed high-altitude tankers would prove much more efficient. A fleet of roughly 125 such tankers could loft a payload sufficient to cool the regions poleward of 60 degreesN/S by 2 degreesC per year, which would return them close to their pre-industrial average temperatures. Costs are estimated at $11 billion annually — less than one-third the cost of cooling the entire planet by the same 2 degreesC magnitude and a tiny fraction of the cost of reaching net zero emissions.
Smith calls the idea “game-changing” (while also warning it’s “not a substitute for decarbonization”).
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