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Refreeze the Arctic

Important and Radical Goal #

“Refreezing the Arctic, were it possible, would be a huge defence against the global catastrophes currently threatened by continued global warming” - Sir David Attenborough

“We must urgently reduce greenhouse gas now and remove it from the atmosphere at scale. But the reality is we must also look at innovative ways to buy time and repair the atmosphere; including things as seemingly radical as refreezing the Arctic.” - Prof Sir David King 2021

The Situation in the Arctic #

Research published 6th June 2023 concludes the following:

“the first sea ice-free September will occur as early as the 2030s–2050s irrespective of emission scenarios”.

This reinforces the conclusions of several other similar studies, which all indicate emissions reductions on their own cannot prevent the complete absence of sea-ice from the Arctic in autumn.

Drastic emission cuts are absolutely essential, but other measures are needed IN ADDITION. As UN secretary general António Guterres in his response to the 2023 IPCC Synthesis report:

“This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts – everything, everywhere, all at once.”

The following quotes from ICCI State of the Cryosphere Report 2022 make it clear that:

  • Without some kind of large-scale intervention in the radiative balance of the Arctic, ice-free summers are inevitable.
  • The knock-on consequences for the climate are massive.

Arctic Sea Ice #

“(The) extreme loss of summer sea ice is a primary cause of Arctic amplification.” (p36)

“The occurrence of the first ice-free summer … is inevitable, and likely to occur at least once before 2050 even under a very low emissions scenario” (p37)

“Even intermediate emissions will lead to ice-free conditions most summers” (p37)

“The effects of amplifying feedbacks (include) greater permafrost thaw, leading to even larger carbon emissions and infrastructure damage.” (p37)

Permafrost #

“The Arctic is warming at 2–4 times the global average, making ancient permafrost stores of carbon highly vulnerable to thaw” (p27)

“Should we reach 2°C, permafrost emissions will about equal those of the entire European Union today on an annual basis, 3–4 Gt/ year, for about 220–300 Gt CO2-eq by 2100” (p29)

“Thawing of permafrost is a slow process and because once thawed, permafrost soils continue to emit carbon for at least 100 years, and possibly several centuries” (p30)

Solar Geoengineering #

The above quotes paint a pretty bleak picture, but it is important to recognise that even the most optimistic emissions reduction scenarios are not going to reverse the dramatic decline in Arctic sea-ice, or head off the dangerous consequences of its complete loss in summer.

This is what drives us to keep working on a targeted solar-geoengineering solution for the Arctic.

One final quote, this time from a paper by Bodansky & Hunt in 2020

“The melting of the Arctic poses enormous risks both to the Arctic itself and to the global climate system. Conventional climate change policies operate too slowly to save the Arctic, so unconventional approaches need to be considered, including technologies to refreeze Arctic ice and slow the melting of glaciers.”

A range of solar geoengineering techniques have been proposed. There has been a very recent review paper on Solar Geoengineering in the Polar Regions, which finds problems with all these techniques. A future geoengineering strategy may use multiple techniques in combination, and we think the highly targeted approach that SkyScroll enables can be an important part of that mix.