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Arctic windmills maybe?

An Arizona State University team has proposed a geo-engineering intervention, using 10 million ‘windmills’ to reverse the Arctic ice melt. 

An Arizona State University team has proposed a geo-engineering intervention, using 10 million ‘windmills’ to reverse the Arctic ice melt. 

Scientists battle it out on the Ars Technica news forum, over the best way to stop the Arctic becoming ‘toast’. With the other hand they fend off climate-sceptic trolls.

Now a new wave of sceptics has appeared. They say rude things about the old generation of climate change denialists who still rage against all the signs that Planet Earth is warming up dangerously –and that humans have caused it.

Contrary to denialists, second generation sceptics are aware that humans are responsible for the damage. We could well bring about “an end to life as we know it”. Take the gloves off and we are talking about extermination of the human species at best.

The Arctic is known as the “air-conditioner of the planet”. But reducing our energy consumption, weaning the planet off fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy is no longer going to be enough to halt climate change.

Pouring of cold water on our target to stop global temperatures going through the roof is rife on science blogs. Many scientists doubt if we will succeed at all. Not even a full deployment of renewables can save us now, they say. Something more has to be done and it has to be done fast. However, saving the planet may cost the Earth.

The diversity of life, our atmosphere, oceans, forests, wetlands, waterways and ice sheets are all part of the Earth’s life support system. Human activity has reached a point where it far outweighs the forces of nature as a driver of change to these systems. So much so that we teeter at the brink of a new era. We are witness to a door closing on the Holocene age, an epoch that saw the rise and fall of major civilisations, stretching from the end of the last ice age until modern times.

The present time we live in, dubbed the ‘anthropocene’ has been mile-stoned by the recent observation that our planet is warming 170 times faster than over the previous four billion years. Yet, the climate change sceptics are still among us with US President Donald Trump as their pinhead. If only global warming were a bubble that could be burst.

Let’s send all the climate change denialists into orbit so that they form a protective shield to keep the Earth cool enough for the rest of us to live down here

On the optimistic side, Trump’s reversal of Obama’s energy policy may make his Canadian neighbours even more inclined toward a shift in favour of clean energy in their own country.

The young champion of new world politics based on internationalism and cooperation, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been billed the ‘Anti-Trump’. Yet during a visit south of the border earlier this month, Trudeau avoided raising the US President’s ire by running circles around the climate change elephant-in-the-room, focusing instead on trade issues.

In the same week, a Norwegian research centre for climate and environment came out with a chilling announcement:

“Expansion of renewable energy cannot by itself stave off catastrophic climate change. Even if solar and wind capacity continues to grow at breakneck speed, it will not be fast enough to cap global warming under two degrees Celsius, the target set down in the Paris climate treaty.”

If the ‘toast’ scenario is not to become real news, we must come up with something quickly, the experts say. Debate is raging over which pathways are still open to us. With America’s default on world climate commitments, is it possible to save the planet from itself?

Theoretical astrophysicist and modeller of planetary processes, Steven Desch of Arizona State University didn’t think so, after a depressing climate conference in 2012. That was the year that release of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost started to be included in future climate models. The amount of carbon held in permafrost is twice the amount already in the atmosphere.

Downcast after the conference, Desch decided to start work on a part of the problem and find a way to stop sea ice melting.

By installing wind pumps across the Arctic, water could be pumped to the surface of the ice cap where it would freeze, adding up to a metre to the thinning ice. Ten million wind-driven pumps would be needed. This presents an overwhelming challenge for maintenance teams, not to mention astronomical figures upfront for installation.

“Why not build giant sunshades from materials gathered from the moon, asteroids or recycled space junk?” asks a critic of the windmill idea.

“Maybe we should just put a bunch of white plastic balls in the ocean to increase albedo (reflectivity of solar heat),” cites another critic. Or float all those white disposable coffee cups, recycle them and save the planet, quips another.

Perhaps the best ideas yet have come from the lighter side. “Let’s send all the climate change denialists into orbit so that they form a protective shield to keep the Earth cool enough for the rest of us to live down here.”

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