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Author Topic: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?  (Read 6335 times)

jonthed

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Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« on: March 17, 2013, 09:50:22 AM »
Hi, I'm relatively new to the complexities of the Arctic and the climate system, but I was hoping to ask about the feasibility of using geo-engineering to 'save' (or at least prolong the demise of) the arctic ice cap.

The few questions I have in mind:
  • Would it be possible?
    Would it be beneficial to the climate as a whole to maintain a large ice cap on the pole?
    Would it all be futile if lower latitude temps and keep rising anyway?

Possible?

It seems to me that the injection of aerosols into the stratosphere to reduce insolation (see http://www2.eng.cam.ac.uk/~hemh/SPICE/SPICE.htm) should be able to lengthen the freeze season and shorten and weaken the melt season. Blocking a percentage of the sunlight for the full season should allow more ice to freeze (and thicker), and make less of it melt in the melt season. This would lead to growth of the ice volume. After several years the ice cap will be back to 20th century levels. Aerosol levels could then be reduced to achieve freeze-melt equilibrium.

There may be other methods of recovering the ice cap which could be used in conjunction. However, assuming it is possible, is it desirable for the climate system?

Beneficial?

We have seen research to suggest that a diminishing ice cap is already affecting the jet stream and lower latitude weather patterns and climate. If the ice cap diminishes further we can only expect more of the same. Returning the ice cap to it's previous size should hopefully mitigate the changes somewhat, if not totally as the temperature differential increases as the equator and tropics continue to warm?

I have also heard that the ice cap functions as an air conditioner, and a heat sink in that a lot of energy is used to melt the ice. Would a large ice cap help regulate the permafrost, and slow down its thaw?

With a large ice cap, much energy will again be reflected back into space, rather than absorbed by the oceans.

It seems there are several benefits of being able to recover and maintain a large icecap on the arctic.

Futile?
Even if the ice cap can be repaired, if the energy imbalance is not fully returned to equilibrium the planet will keep getting hotter, and I'm sure eventually the increasing temperatures will begin to eat away at our geo-engineered ice cap once again. Is it likely that by geo-engineering the ice cap the temperature differential will be higher than if not, and more undesirable side effects would be seen? Would it at least buy us some time, staving off some of the feedbacks and hazards temporarily whilst the world tries to reduce emissions?

I'd like to know what you all think.

Personally, it seems to me that this technology is easily within our grasp, and does nothing more than mimic a volcano. I can;t imagine the ecosystems of the arctic being disrupted much by this, certainly no more than the disruption already underway due to climate change. Correct me if I'm wrong but I didn't think photosynthesis plays a huge role in the arctic food chain, and if we're only talking a few percent of insolation, I can see their being much more good done than harm.

It also seems to me that there are very convincing reasons for wanting to repair and maintain a large ice cap on the arctic, even if it is only a temporary reprieve from the inevitable. If it delays feedbacks kicking in, and delays worsening weather patterns, then it has bought us some more time to act.

Please let me know your thoughts.

conrad

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2013, 01:39:38 AM »
I'm surprised and discouraged that I'm the first to respond. This idea of putting SO2 into the arctic seems good to me (a non-scientist). All this jerking around with trying to get the world to limit CO2 and getting nowhere (Just check the Mauna Loa CO2 graph) is depressing because A. It's not working and B. It is unclear if CO2 can be taken out of the atmosphere in a cost-effective way even if emissions are stopped.
This fellow, Paul Beckwith, has a fleshed-out idea here:
http://arctic-news.blogspot.ca/2013/01/anthropogenic-arctic-volcano-can-calm-climate.html

gfwellman

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2013, 02:31:37 AM »
It could be an emergency stop-gap measure, but here are the problems.
1. The SO2 doesn't stay in the arctic.  It spreads out and impacts general northern hemisphere insolation, agriculture and rainfall patterns.  This has different effects on different countries and the ones most negatively affected sue (or worse) to stop it.  Could seriously lead to warfare.
2. The SO2 doesn't stay in the stratosphere.  It gets into the troposphere and hence rains out as H2SO4.  Ouch.
3.  As GHGs continue to accumulate, we'd be committing to ever-increasing costs (as above) from SO2.  Eventually it would be stopped for one reason or another, and then the whole arctic would melt out in a year or two.  (And we'd still have all that H2SO4.)  It reminds me of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_Was_an_Old_Lady_Who_Swallowed_a_Fly

However, we could make a realistic estimate of the costs that the above would entail, and put a tax on carbon  to pay for it ... which would have the effect of taxing fossil fuels out of exisitence fast enough that we might not actually need to use the SO2 plan.   8)

OldLeatherneck

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2013, 05:39:30 PM »
It could be an emergency stop-gap measure, but here are the problems.
...................This has different effects on different countries and the ones most negatively affected sue (or worse) to stop it.  Could seriously lead to warfare.

...................It gets into the troposphere and hence rains out as H2SO4.  Ouch.


I've long been of the opinion that any unilateral geo-engineering activities, launched by one (or a few) nations, might be perceived as "Acts of War" by those nations that might be harmfully impacted by those activities.

Secondly, while aerosols might temporarily slow down the warming of the arctic, it does nothing to stop fouling the world's oceans with increasing amounts of CO2.  How much more CO2 can the oceans absorb before causing catastrophic damage??
"Share Your Knowledge.  It's a Way to Achieve Immortality."  ......the Dalai Lama

ritter

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2013, 05:46:31 PM »
If we can't get the modeling right with the climate as it is, what makes you think the geoengineering schemes modeling is any less problematic? The point being, I don't trust us to not screw up attempts at geoengineering resulting in horrific unintended consequences.

anonymous

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2013, 04:30:48 AM »
I consider the injection of 30 giga tons of CO2 every year into the atmosphere as already ongoing geo-engineering. If we stop that, sea ice will nicely recover. No further action required.

ivica

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2013, 08:07:48 AM »
Following line of thought of a***, ritter, ...
We humans did enough geo-engineering already.  :-[
"Doc, look ... if I kick my knee with hammer ... it hurts!"

conrad

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2013, 06:34:57 PM »
ivica and arcticio,
We are Geo-engineering now with CO2 additions. Couldn't, say the Seychelles, sue the rest of the world for their destruction? If the USA pumps lots of carbon into the atmosphere, why not pump some SO2 into the arctic stratosphere close to the North shore of Alaska? It's on our land. Maybe it could save the arctic sea ice. We have a good idea what SO2 will do from volcano studies and we have a good idea what CO2 will do if unchecked. We are not close to a carbon tax. Normally smart people like Joe Nocera and Fareed Zakaria think the Keystone pipeline is a good thing. Obama is likely to approve the pipeline. CO2 emissions have not even slowed down never mind stopping.

ivica

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2013, 07:26:32 PM »
conrad,
I hope your questions are rhetorical,
because I have no many answers to offer,
more I think more questions I see, though.

conrad

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2013, 07:50:33 PM »
The Bill Maher Show recently  had a guest who opined that the only hope for sequestration of carbon (getting it down to 350 ppm) was the idea of Allan Savory - see TED Talk. Does anyone know anything about this idea or Mr. Savory?

Jim Hunt

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ivica

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2013, 09:39:29 AM »
Yeah, some people will work hard on how to green the world's deserts
while some other will work hard on desertification of, for example, Amazon.

For those who want to read more: Geoengineering Report and 44 Responses at Azimuth.

Ignoring that We are the cause and dealing with consequences is not the way.

On next visit to Doc:
"Doc, look ... if I put this gummy stuff on my knee and kick with hammer ... oh, my nose!"

Apocalypse4Real

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2013, 06:21:37 AM »
It seems geo-engineering is starting to create a broader public conversation. The New York TImes ran a piece today on the issues of global geo-engineering, includng the Arctic.

See:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/opinion/geoengineering-our-last-hope-or-a-false-promise.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130527&_r=0



Artful Dodger

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Re: Saving the ice cap with geo-engineering? Futile?
« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2013, 09:32:49 AM »
The New York TImes ran a piece today on the issues of global geo-engineering, includng the Arctic.
Hi A4R,

It's important to note that Clive Hamilton, the author of this Op-Ed piece, is an economist, and author of Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change.

Quote
...which explores climate change denial and its implications. It argues that climate change will bring about large-scale, harmful consequences for habitability for life on Earth including humans, which it is too late to prevent. Hamilton explores why politicians, corporations and the public deny or refuse to act on this reality. He invokes a variety of explanations, including wishful thinking, ideology, consumer culture and active lobbying by the fossil fuel industry. The book builds on the author's fifteen-year prior history of writing about these subjects, with previous books including Growth Fetish and Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change.
Bottom line is Clive is a serious academic and author, who's opinions are worth listening to.  8)
Cheers!
Lodger