Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Easy solution to the melting ice caps

People are always belly-aching about how the polar ice caps are melting. "Oh, the sea level is going to rise and flood coastal cities!" Blah blah blah, as if this is some unsolvable problem.

But, as we all know, human ingenuity knows no bounds, and there is a simple, cost-effective solution to the "problem" of arctic ice melting: just re-freeze it. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals how simple this solution would be.

  • According to the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington, the arctic pole is losing an extra 280 km³ of ice per year beyond the seasonal fluctuations.
  • Ice has a density of 0.9167 g/cm³, so 280 km³ (2.8e17 cm³) is 2.56676e17 grams of ice lost per year.
  • 1 Watt can freeze 8 grams of water per hour, according to the ever-trustworthy beowulff on the Straight Dope message boards.
  • The state-of-the-art nuclear reactor design is the European Pressurized Reactor, which, for the low-low price of $11 billion, pumps out a hefty 1,600 MW
  • A single EPR could freeze (assuming 100% efficiency) 1.28e10 grams of water per hour, or 1.12e14 grams per year.
  • It would therefore take 2.56676e17 / 1.12e14 = 2,291 EPRs to re-freeze the yearly arctic ice loss. At $11 billion a pop, that's $25 trillion to build enough power plants to stop the melting of the polar ice caps

So all this worrying about melting ice caps just boils down to a lack of creativity. For a mere $25 trillion, we could build 2,291 nuclear reactors in the arctic circle and use them to run giant freezers. It's so obvious, I can't believe nobody's thought of it before.

You're welcome, world.