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The plan to re-freeze the Arctic with millions of wind pumps


Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Sunday, February 19, 2017, 5:47 PM - Drastic times call for drastic measures, it can be argued. When it comes to fighting Arctic sea ice loss, here's one countermeasure that almost seems like a Bond-villain plan in reverse.

With global average temperatures rising, and much of the Arctic Ocean likely to be ice-free in the late summers by 2030, a group of researchers have taken the first steps toward a plan to refreeze it -- using around 10 million wind-powered water pumps installed around the region.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Arizona, says the pumps would bring water to the top of the ice in the winter, where it would freeze, eventually adding an additional metre of thickness over the course of the season.

The researchers say such a deployment to around 10 per cent of the Arctic "could more than reverse current trends of ice loss," and that it could be done with existing technology -- though with a hefty price tag.

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In fact, the report goes into a fair bit of detail on the kind of industrial undertaking the plan would need. Installing one million turbines a year for 10 years over 10 per cent of the Arctic would cost around half a trillion dollars in the end.

But as massive as that sounds, the researchers say even if the plan included installing turbines over the entire Arctic rather than 10 per cent, with a yearly cost of $500 billion, that would still only represent around 0.64 per cent of global GDP, 2.7 per cent of U.S. GDP and 13 per cent of the U.S. federal budget. For a sense of perspective, the researchers note the U.S. auto industry's annual production of around 10 million vehicles -- around one ninth of global output -- nets in $300 billion in revenues.

"While clearly expensive, constructing and deploying the pumping devices over the entire Arctic is economically achievable," the researchers say. "It is also clear that deployment of devices over 10 per cent of the Arctic, at $50 billion per year, is actually economically quite tractable."

Nevertheless, it does sound like a drastic enterprise, but the researchers say the approach should be considered -- as part of a multi-pronged strategy -- because efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't enough to reverse the warming that is causing sea ice loss.

"We want to provoke discussion, get people thinking about the Arctic in particular, about the need to intervene strongly there, because nothing we do on the world scale is going to be fast enough to save this summer sea ice in the Arctic," lead researcher Stephen Desch told CBC News.

SOURCE: Earth's Future (original study) | CBC News

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