Scientists have drawn up a controversial plan to refreeze the Arctic and Antarctic, while dialing in global air conditioning.
They say high-flying jets can spray microscopic aerosol particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and cool melting ice sheets.
About 175,000 flights a year would be needed, emitting millions of tons of carbon dioxide.
However, a former UK principal scientist has backed the plan, telling Sky News that polar warming is now crucial – and ice cooling could hold back the rise in squid. global seawater.
New research led by Wake Smith from Yale University, USA.
He warned the plan would treat an important symptom of climate change, not the cause.
“It’s aspirin, not penicillin,” he said. It is not a substitute for decarbonization.”
Under the plan, a fleet of 125 military air-to-air refueling aircraft would release a cloud of microscopic sulfur dioxide particles at an altitude of 43,000ft (13km) and latitude 60 degrees in both hemispheres. , roughly equivalent to the Shetland Islands to the north and the Falklands to the south.
The particles will slowly drift toward the poles during high-altitude winds, slightly covering the Earth’s surface below.
According to research published in the scientific journal Environmental Research Communications, just over 13 million tons of particles released in spring and summer are enough to cool the polar regions by 2C, with more moderate cooling in the polar regions. medium latitudes.
The plan is controversial, especially because the large number of flights – the equivalent of more than two days of global air traffic in 2021 – will release greenhouse gases into the upper layers of the atmosphere, where they do more harm.
Other scientists are also cautious about opening solar visors because it can have undesirable consequences, such as reduced crop yields.
A plan to release particles from a balloon in northern Sweden last year was scrapped after protests by environmentalists. A large-scale release program will require international approval.
But the researchers believe that only 1% of the population lives in the target deployment area. And the program’s £10 billion-a-year cost would be much less than carbon capture or other means of mitigating or adapting to climate change, they added.
“If the risk-benefit equation is in favor anywhere, it goes to the poles,” Mr. Smith said.
“Any purported rotation of the global thermostat will benefit all of humanity.”
The poles are warming many times faster than the global average, with record heatwaves reported in both the Arctic and Antarctic earlier this year.
If the vast ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica reach a tipping point – now thought likely on current projections of global warming – sea levels will rise by several meters.