50 Years Ago in TreeHugger: Atomizing the Arctic

Well, had we been writing we would have covered this story. Those who think that geo-engineering as a solution to climate change is new, should look back 50 years, where Russian scientist P.M. Borisov met with the Canadian Government to propose building a dam across the Bering Strait. All that ice up north is such an impediment to development:

"If the Arctic ice is once melted much less of the sun's radiation will be reflected out into space and therefore the arctic ice cap will not re-form. An ice-free Arctic Ocean would be a great boon to oceanic shipping, especially between Europe and East Asia. Much land in northern Canada and Siberia would be freed of permafrost and made suitable for agriculture. Borisov believed that an ice-free Arctic Ocean would lead to increased evaporation of water and hence increased rainfall worldwide, including the region of Sahara Desert leading to grass growing there. Borisov considers all of the impacts of the melting of the Arctic ice cap to be beneficial. He asserts that the melting of the Greenland ice cap would raise sea levels at a rate of only 1.5 to 2 mm per year." "Such a dam would be 74 kilometers in width. It would have to go down to a depth of no more than 58 meters. This dam is within the range of technical feasibility.

The purpose of the dam is to allow the pumping of cold Arctic water into the Pacific. At present the flow of warm Atlantic waters is counterbalanced by a flow of cold Arctic waters into the Atlantic. Under Borisov's proposal about 145,000 km³ of cold Arctic water would be pumped through through the dam into the Pacific thus drawing more warm Atlantic water into the Arctic Basin."::PM Borisov According to the Globe and Mail, Canadian scientists deemed the plan "crazy."

Others thought there was a more modern solution: Nuclear bombs. According to the Village Voice:

Julian Huxley, then the Secretary-General of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. The brilliant zoologist brother of writer Aldous Huxley, and himself a co-author of books with H.G. Wells, Julian used his bully pulpit at UNESCO to imagine a brave new world of atomic landscaping. Blast away the ice cap with A-bombs, Huxley reasoned, and you'd create both a warmer climate and new habitable lands.

But why stop there when you could also bomb the South Pole? "Cracking of the Antarctic icebox," the World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker put it just weeks later, would reveal vast mineral riches. The idea was enthusiastically pitched to America's tool-belt demographic by Mechanix Illustrated in May 1946, quoting one Columbia professor who "likens the polar ice to a 'common cold' afflicting the earth in 'head' and 'feet,' producing what he considers an unnatural condition." Bombing the polar caps, presumably, would be like blowing the earth's nose—but blowing really, really hard. ::Village Voice

Tags: Arctic


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