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Scientists hatch wild $500 billion plan to save the Arctic…with fans

Despite what some say, it’s a simple fact that the Earth is getting warmer due to human activity.

Among the areas hit hardest by this warming is the Artic.

Last November, sea ice for that month hit a record low and over 30,000 square kilometres of ice melted. It was the largest loss ever seen at that time of year. And throughout last month, the amount of Arctic ice was at record daily lows.

At the very least, none of this is looking good. A study undertaken by the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology came out last November predicting that if we continue at the current rate, that the Arctic may be completely ice-free by 2050. Other estimates predict an ice-free Artic summer by 2030.

So, aside from learning to swim, what other measures can we take to save the Arctic?

A group of scientists at Arizona State University have come up with something pretty wild, and it’s so crazy that it just might work.

Led by physicist Steven Desch, the team has proposed building 10 million wind-powered pumps over the Arctic ice cap. In winter these would be used to pump water onto the surface of the ice which would in turn freeze and thicken the ice.

Desch and his team published the Bond villian-esque scheme in the journal Earth’s Future, and they believe that with the help of the pumps they will be able to add an extra metre of ice to the Arctic’s current layer.

There is, however, the question of price.

Buying and maintaining those pumps won’t come cheap. In the paper, they estimate a price tag of $USD 500 billion and hope that multiple governments will come together to foot the bill.

Desch told The Guardian,

Our only strategy at present seems to be to tell people to stop burning fossil fuels. It’s a good idea but it is going to need a lot more than that to stop the Arctic’s sea ice from disappearing.

He isn’t the first one to think outside the box when it comes to saving the Arctic.

Science Alert reports that others have looked into whitening the Arctic ice using aerosol particles to help reflect solar radiation back into space and that NASA is experimenting with artificial clouds. Don’t tell the conspiracy theorists!

Worst case scenario – the Arctic melts. Is it gone forever? This month, National Geographic reported that based on an influential paper from 2011, it can be argued that Arctic ice doesn’t have a tipping point.

In other words, Artic ice will always bounce back, so even if we are dumb enough to completely melt it one year, it will return.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we should stop worrying about it. Nearby Greenland does have a tipping point, and if Artic and Antartica ice were to completely melt, it would mean a huge loss of natural wildlife, rising sea levels and most likely massive human casualties and loss of coastal cities.

Dirk Notz, who is also a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, told National Geographic that if were to magically cut our greenhouse gas production, Arctic ice would immediately stabilise and we would have no worries.

But “magically” is the key word here, and that isn’t going to happen. So perhaps coming up with a wild solution is the only way to solve this problem.

Is this too wild, though? Those 10 million pumps would only actually cover 10% of the Arctic. If distributed across the entire area, then 100 million would be required.

Estimating a weight of one tonne per steel pump, we’re talking between 10 and 100 million tonnes of steel required per year.

And as noted by Science Alert, The U.S currently produces about 80 million tonnes of steel a year.

So it may be a long shot, but as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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