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Can Arctic sea ice be restored to counter global warming?

Can Arctic sea ice be restored to counter global warming?

Arctic Reflections, a Dutch impact start-up initiative, is committed to halting the rapid disappearance of Arctic sea ice. They aim to restore it, by thickening the ice in winter through pumping seawater on top. We are proud to donate to this impressive climate project that fits our mission of accelerating positive impact. Why and how? Let’s find out.

At VP Capital, we believe the current pace of sustainable development is not enough. We all need to take action and responsibility faster. To move first and drive impact through innovation. So, when we find a project that ticks all those boxes, we are proud to show our conviction for the cause.

“After six generations, it’s safe to say we’re in it for the long run. That’s why we don’t just hope for a better future, we invest in it.” - Guus van Puijenbroek

What is happening with the ice in the Arctic Ocean?

The Arctic is warming up fast. One of the processes causing this is the diminishing ability of the Arctic surface to reflect light. Bright white sheets of ice reflect most of the incoming sunlight, absorbing only a small amount of heat. But as the sea ice melts, more open ocean is exposed to absorb much more solar radiation, leading to higher temperatures and even less sea ice cover.

A permanently ice-free Arctic would be equivalent to adding a global warming potential of 25 years of global CO2 emissions.

Climate simulations predict that an ice-free Arctic summer could already occur in the 2030s, which will directly affect flora and fauna and cause global climate effects.

A possible solution: thickening the Arctic ice during winter

To counter the growing ocean exposure, Arctic Reflections proposes a technique known as Arctic ice thickening. Distributing seawater on top of the surface in strategic locations, with sustainably powered ice-making machines, increases the thickness of the ice during winter. The thicker ice is expected to last longer during the summer months and increase solar reflection. Especially if snow is flooded, this breaks its insulating properties, which will also increase natural ice growth on the bottom of the ice again.

The ambition: halting net summer sea ice loss of ~100k km2

Every winter, over 12 mln km2 freezes up in the Arctic. Only 4 mln km2 of this ice survives the summer these days, and the net decline from one summer to the next is about 0,1 mln km2. It is Arctic Reflections’ ambition to yearly thicken an ice area of that size. For comparison, this is still more than 2x the size of The Netherlands.

How far along is the project?

After a proof of principle phase consisting of lab tests and modelling, Arctic Reflections has now moved on to a proof of concept phase. They will validate the potential positive impact of their method in a field test at Svalbard, in April, together with scientists from the Technical University of Delft and the local research center UNIS. Next to this, they will do outreach to Indigenous communities in the Canadian Arctic, and conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment, to ensure their solution also has local benefits. Finally, if the field test is successful, they will determine the feasibility and costs of an operation at scale and validate a sustainable financing model to cover the operation.

Artic Reflections

If you wish to learn more about this remarkable climate project or get in touch with Arctic Reflections, feel free to visit their website.

*Photo on the left: Founders of Arctic Reflections, Fonger Ypma and Tom Meijeraan

Can Arctic sea ice be restored to counter global warming?

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