More time for decarbonization: 125 aircraft could cool polar regions

With comparatively limited geoengineering, the polar regions could be cooled and climate change slowed down, say US researchers.

125 military tanker aircraft are to be used (Image: US Air Force)

A Yale University researcher suggests reflecting the sun off the Earth’s poles off microscopic particles and slowing global warming. This is reported by Sky News from Great Britain and explains that cooling the polar ice caps could also reduce sea level rise. The proposed measure does not help against man-made climate change, but it can cure an important symptom, says Wake Smith: “It’s aspirin, not penicillin and not a substitute for decarbonization.”

The plan worked out by Smith for limited geoengineering in the fight against the climate catastrophe is comparatively detailed, writes the British news portal: According to this, a fleet of 125 military tanker aircraft would be deployed in spring and summer at the 60th parallel – around the same height as Oslo – in 13 kilometers high, tons of sulfur dioxide are released into the atmosphere. They would then be carried to the poles by the natural air currents. According to this, 13 million tons of sulfur dioxide per year could cool down by 2 degrees, mid-latitudes a little less. This would require around 175,000 flights, twice as many as on a normal day worldwide. That would cost more than 11 billion euros per year.

The proposal falls under what is known as “solar radiation management” (SRM), which has been discussed for years. Because it is “dangerously cheap,” the risks associated with it are particularly easy to ignore, Janosz Pasztor, then Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations who was responsible for climate change, once put it. Even with Smith’s plans, there are warnings that such a move could have unexpected consequences. Smith counters that only one percent of humanity lives in the directly affected zone. At the same time, the polar regions are warming up particularly quickly: “If the cost-benefit analysis is positive somewhere, it’s there,” he says.


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