Turbines to stop global warming?

Turbines to stop global warming?

A researcher at the University of Alberta has come up an odd scheme to reduce the effects of global warming – one that involves 8,100 barges equipped with wind turbines pumping water to produce more Arctic ice. Dr. Peter Flynn, who holds the Poole Chair in Management for Engineers, suggested the unusual plan as a last resort to deal with one of the strangest consequences of climate change: it could actually plunge Europe into a deep freeze.

A researcher at the University of Alberta has come up an odd scheme to reduce the effects of global warming – one that involves 8,100 barges equipped with wind turbines pumping water to produce more Arctic ice.

Dr. Peter Flynn, who holds the Poole Chair in Management for Engineers, suggested the unusual plan as a last resort to deal with one of the strangest consequences of climate change: it could actually plunge Europe into a deep freeze.

That’s because a warming climate has weakened the Gulf Stream, a current that works like a giant conveyor belt, pulling warm water from the south Atlantic into the Greenland Sea, where it cools and sinks into the deep.

This movement of warm water releases heat into the air. And that keeps the climate of countries like the UK, which is at the same latitude as Labrador, soggy and mild rather than bitterly cold.

But with the amount of Arctic sea ice shrinking, the Gulf Stream has slowed. Research conducted last summer showed the Gulf Stream had weakened by some 30 per cent.

To prevent Europe from freezing over, Flynn suggests that 8,100 barges mounted with wind turbines and water pumps could be frozen into the sea ice.

The pumps, powered by the turbines, would gush water from beneath the ice on to the surface, where it would freeze and thicken up to seven metres during the winter.

The project comes with a hefty pricetag: $50 billion. But during an appearance on the CBC science program Quirks and Quarks, Flynn reasoned that Europe’s big chill could affect 100 million people, which works out to just $500 each.

“If the glaciers are at your back door or if the Thames is freezing over, $500 per person is not too large a number,” he said.

He added that curbing the amount of fossil fuels being burned is the best cure for global warming, but other options may be needed.

“This would be our last choice. Our first choice would be not to put too much carbon in the atmosphere.”

“We’d love to treat the root of the problem, but if the world gets into a crisis, it might be necessary to deal with the symptoms as well.”

Filed under:climate-change