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Antarctic techno-fix cannot slow rising seas

Antarctic techno-fix cannot slow rising seas

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Pumping seawater into Antarctica is unlikely to halt sea-level rise.
Image: Lyubomir Ivanov via Wikimedia Commons

Pumping seawater onto the Antarctic landmass to form ice and stop sea levels rising stands little chance of success, scientists say. 

LONDON, 10 March, 2016 – Sea level rise is likely to be a problem too big to handle. Geoengineers will not be able to magic away the rising tides, according to new research.

In particular, they will not be able to pump water from the sea and store it as ice on the continent of Antarctica. That is because, unless they pump it enormous distances, that will only accelerate the flow of the glaciers and it will all end up back in the sea again, a study in the journal Earth System Dynamics says. 

Geoengineering is sometimes produced as the high-technology solution to the environmental problems of climate change: if humans don’t change their ways and start reducing greenhouse gas emissions, say the proponents of technofix, human ingenuity will no doubt devise a different answer. 

But, repeatedly, closer examination has made such solutions ever less plausible. Scientists have dismissed the idea that the melting of the Arctic can be reversed, have only tentatively conceded that technology could dampen the force of a hurricane, and have found that  instead of cooling the Earth – attempts to control climate change could either make things worse or seriously disrupt rainfall patterns.   On balance, scientists believe that most of the big geo-engineering ideas won’t work

Deep freeze

And now a team from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research has poured cold water on the idea of pouring cold water onto the ice cap. 

The idea is a simple one. Are sea levels rising 3mm a year because the world is warming? Then pump the sea high onto the Antarctic landmass where it will freeze and stay frozen for a millennium.

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