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Ryan Robertson

Anchor/Investigative Reporter

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Yale scientist suggests refreezing Earth’s poles

Sep 16, 2022

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor/Investigative Reporter

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A Yale researcher and climate scientist has a new plan to stop the polar ice caps from melting. He wants to inject particulates in the sky and reflect sunlight back into space.

Now, Hollywood produces plenty of movies about humans trying to “fix” something in the skies and the whole plan goes horribly wrong. The Matrix, Highlander, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs are just a few.

So, when Wake Smith published his idea to refreeze Earth’s poles, you can bet more than a few eyebrows raised. Smith is one of the world’s leading climate scientists. He is a lecturer at Yale University and Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School.

In a study published this week, Smith laid out a plan to use jets flying at high altitude to inject microscopic sulfur dioxide particles into the atmosphere above the North and South Poles.

Smith contends the particles will reflect sunlight back into space and slightly shade the surface below. The plan is certainly controversial. Setting aside all of the unknown impacts it would cause, the plan requires a fleet of planes and international cooperation to accomplish, and even Smith said, it’s just a Band-Aid.

But climate change is blamed for causing the poles to warm quicker than the rest of the Earth’s surface, stoking fears of rising sea levels. So, for many climatologists, no idea can be overlooked, no matter how far-fetched.

Smith said the benefit of slowing the polar ice melt is that it will buy Earth some time to deal with the root causes of climate change and lower carbon emissions.

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THE MATRIX. HIGHLANDER. CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS. HOLLYWOOD HAS GIVEN US NO SHORT SUPPLY OF STORIES ABOUT HUMANS TRYING TO “FIX” SOMETHING IN THE SKIES AND IT GOES HORRIBLY WRONG.

SO, WHEN A YALE CLIMATE SCIENTIST SAYS HE CAN REFREEZE EARTH’S POLAR CAPS BY INJECTING PARTICULATES IN THE SKY, YOU CAN BET MORE THAN A FEW EYEBROWS RAISED.

WAKE SMITH IS ONE OF THE WORLD’S LEADING CLIMATOLOGISTS.

IN A STUDY PUBLISHED THIS WEEK, SMITH LAYS OUT A PLAN TO USE JETS FLYING AT HIGH ALTITUDE TO INJECT MICROSCOPIC SULFUR DIOXIDE PARTICLES INTO THE ATMOSPHERE ABOVE THE NORTH AND SOUTH POLES.

SMITH CONTENDS THE PARTICLES WILL REFLECT SUNLIGHT BACK INTO SPACE AND SLIGHTLY SHADE THE SURFACE BELOW.

THE PLAN IS CONTROVERSIAL TO BE SURE.

SETTING ASIDE ALL OF THE UNKNOWN IMPACTS IT WOULD CAUSE, THE PLAN REQUIRES A FLEET OF PLANES TO ACCOMPLISH, WOULD REQUIRE INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, AND EVEN SMITH SAYS IT’S JUST A BANDAID.

BUT CLIMATE CHANGE IS BLAMED FOR CAUSING THE POLES TO WARM QUICKER THAN THE REST OF THE EARTH’S SURFACE, STOKING FEARS OF RISING SEA LEVELS. SO, FOR MANY CLIMATOLOGISTS, NO IDEA CAN BE OVERLOOKED, NO MATTER HOW FAR-FETCHED.

SMITH SAYS THE BENEFIT OF SLOWING POLAR ICE MELT WILL BUY EARTH SOME TIME TO DEAL WITH THE ROOT CAUSES OF CLIMATE CHANGE, AND LOWER CARBON EMISSIONS.