CLIMATE - Refreezing the Arctic sounds like a crazed impossible idea, but a knowledgeable group of scientists believe it has the potential to be the best most efficient quickest way to reduce manifold risks of a climate system that’s already in shaky condition.
For eons the world’s biggest reflector of incoming solar radiation has been the Arctic’s multi-year ice pack 10-20-30 feet thick. Now it’s merely a shadow of its former self whereas it used to reflect 80%-90% of solar radiation back into outer space. But a lot of that solar radiation is now absorbed by the planet. This loss of mojo is the result of human-generated greenhouse gases that heated up the atmosphere 3-fold more in the Arctic than elsewhere on the planet. As a result, multi-year ice has taken a big hit.
Meanwhile, the Arctic is fast approaching the dreaded Blue Ocean Event BOE, which means a period of time with essentially no ice, and which is packed full of negative connotations so far-reaching for the hemisphere that it’s beyond the scope of this article.
Interestingly, like Father Time as a figment of one’s imagination, the Arctic should carry a designation as Father Weather. After all, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Major changes in configuration of the Arctic seascape disrupt the jet streams in the troposphere at 20,000-30,000 feet as if it’s a child’s spinning top towards the end of its spin, turning wobbly. Which, in turn, bolsters unpredictable formidable weather throughout the hemisphere, a living nightmare that gets worse and worse.
Americas’ West experiences its worst drought in 1200 years, 100-yr floods become a routine matter, as Arctic warming amplifies Greenland disintegration and partial collapse. In all cases, the Arctic is responsible for one disaster after another, immediately to its south.
What can be done?
Answer: Refreeze the Arctic.
When it comes to the significance of refreezing the Arctic, which is roughly 2.5 times the size of Canada (NOAA) delegates to COP28 in Dubai/2023 (proof positive that oil sheikhs have highjacked UN-sponsored COPs) may want to consider memorizing, chapter and verse, A Farewell to Ice (Oxford University Press) by Peter Wadhams, emeritus professor of Ocean Physics, and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, a brilliant book about the significance of loss of the Arctic.
Meanwhile, there is a prominent school of thought amongst a group of scientists that the most effective way to save humanity from going over the very steep climate cliff is refreezing the Arctic. Sounds complicated.
Indeed, there is ample evidence that the large loss of Arctic albedo, or ice reflection of solar radiation back into outer space, has already morphed the climate system into a monster from the North. In other words, the loss of Arctic ice is a major cause of climate-related problems throughout the hemisphere and in record numbers unprecedented throughout human history.
For example, nowadays it’s newsworthy to report colossal floods never witnessed before, massive megafires throughout the hemisphere literally around the world, torrential pounding rainstorms drowning villages and towns as well as cities, white-out blizzards, and scorching droughts destroying major water reservoirs worldwide.
None of that is normal, not even close to normal. It’s a world gone haywire.
Furthermore, mainstream news outlets have even gone so far as to discuss extreme threatening events like the Doomsday Glacier (Thwaites) situated in West Antarctica that unannounced could bust lose and flood Miami someday in the future. The public hears these unnerving news stories. Yet tens of thousands (40,000 at COP27 in Egypt) of climate delegates at UN-sponsored Conference of the Parties (COP) cannot establish a clear pathway to ameliorate the broken climate system. They simply cannot do it! Yet the delegates jabber away whilst toasting champagne glasses at the end of sessions that go nowhere but do break glass and then return home.
A significant very ambitious plan for refreezing the Arctic is described by climate scientists on a Google-thread code-named: Planetary-Restoration. They detail how and why refreezing the Arctic should be the primary goal of the world. Their logic has considerable merit. The following synopsis comes from Planetary-Restoration:
A stable climate is when planetary cooling balances the heating. According to the Planetary-Restoration group, to re-achieve that all-important balance via reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), such as CO2, is too slow, too risky, and too expensive to deliver net zero heating. Instead of focusing on reduction of GHGs like CO2 the focus should be: “Albedo enhancement or planetary radiation of heat and light reflected to outer space” which is far quicker, easier, cheaper, and safer for cooling the planet.
This refreezing solution is supported by the fact that “rapid Arctic warming, not global warming, is what’s causing difficult, dramatic extremes in weather and climate issues throughout the hemisphere.” Moreover, these “extremes” are far beyond anything anticipated by IPCC models and well in-excess of anything in the historical record.
Of major concern, Arctic warming is accelerating/amplifying the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and thus risking the onset of sudden sea level rise by partial collapse. This risk is more evident and more threatening than ever before. According to Jason Box, professor in glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland: “In the foreseeable scenario that global warming will only continue, the contribution of the Greenland Ice Sheet to sea level rise will only continue increasing. When we take the extreme melt year 2012 and take it as a hypothetical average constant climate later this century, the committed mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet more than doubles to 78 cm (nearly 3 feet).” Notably, this study is only looking at the situation of the Greenland Ice Sheet, not considering the mass loss from Antarctica or other glaciers around the world. (Source: Glaciologists Cut Through Melt Uncertainty of Greenland Ice Sheet, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, August 2022)
Therefore, the immediate priority for climate action must be to halt Arctic warming, which involves a type of cooling intervention called Solar Radiation Management SRM of which Stratospheric Aerosol Injection SAI is a prime example. According to the analysts, and this is a crucial fact, SAI shows promise of benign intervention sufficiently powerful to refreeze the Arctic.
The scientists recommend immediate small-scale SAI deployment to gain insight to efficacy. It is all-important to get this off the ground and operational as soon as possible. Even large-scale CO2 removal will not provide the required “cooling power” in a short enough timescale that SAI can provide.
Time is of essence more so than can be adequately expressed. According to the Climate Change Institute/The University of Maine, the Arctic was 6.63°C (11.93°F) warmer as of 12/06/2022 when compared to some 20 years ago. And, according to navy.mi animation: Arctic Sea ice thickness has barely increased over the past 30 days when ordinarily it should be rapidly thickening.
All of this is leading to more voices that were previously against or neutral on geo-engineering to call for it to help fix a nearly out-of-control climate system that has the potential to radically alter landscapes permanently, for the worst. It does not make sense to sugar coat the situation by saying “we still have time to go to net zero by 2050.” That’s a big joke, a copout. Some climate scientists believe net zero by 2030 may be cutting it too close. This brings refreezing the Arctic into the picture as a very important option for consideration.
It is believed that refreezing the Arctic will go a long way towards resolving two monstrous issues:
- The rapid sea ice loss in the Arctic has altered the Northern Hemispheric jet streams by reducing the energy that drives the jet stream eastward, resulting in big meandering patterns north to south that create “blocking patterns” of weather extremes that, in turn, create extremes of weather-related havoc across the hemisphere.
- Rapid Arctic warming is impacting Greenland’s melt rate which threatens to contribute to undesirable sea level rise. Already, the ice sheet is showing signs of disintegration which could result in sudden collapse. Nothing could be worse.
However, it must be noted that the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report cautions that technological fixes in the field of climate geoengineering that are unproven like carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management could trigger “catastrophic events” and a range of new hazards to both people as well as ecosystems. Indeed, the scientific community is not uniform on this issue. The ongoing debate about geoengineering’s impact on the planet is not close to settled and likely poses a challenge.
But that begs an open question of whether humans have already been geo-engineering the climate by spewing greenhouse gases, e.g., CO2, into the atmosphere like a mad hatter for over a century. So, yes, geo-engineering can go wrong, but not necessarily if it’s done right, hopefully.
Nevertheless, if Planetary-Restoration’s goals are realistic and accomplish refreezing the Arctic, which on the surface seems like a challenge beyond human capacity, but if successful, it goes without saying it will be classified as miraculous and award-winning to the nth degree, an event that may help rescue humanity from itself.
Refreezing the Arctic deserves a thorough undertaking.
(Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 published articles appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide.)