Ice, Ice Babies: Polar Ice Machine Leaves Experts Shaken, not Stirred

August 7, 2019

Geoengineering still not ready for prime time.


Now, designers in Indonesia have offered up what may be the most audacious plan yet: they propose building ice-making submarines that would ply polar waters and pop out icebergs to replace melting floes.
“Sea level rise due to melting ice should not only be responded [to] with defensive solutions,” the designers of the submersible iceberg factory said in an animated video describing the vessel, which took second place in a recent design competition held by the Association of Siamese Architects.
The video shows the proposed submarine dipping slowly beneath the ocean surface to allow seawater to fill its large hexagonal well. When the vessel surfaces, an onboard desalination system removes the salt from the water and a “giant freezing machine” and chilly ambient temperatures freeze the fresh water to create the six-sided bergs. These float away when the vessel resubmerges and starts the process all over again.
A fleet of the ice-making subs, operating continuously, could create enough of the 25-meter-wide “ice babies” to make a larger ice sheet, according to the designers. Faris Rajak Kotahatuhaha, an architect in Jakarta and the leader of the project, said he sees the design as a complement to ongoing efforts to curb emissions.
“To stop global warming, of course we still have to reduce carbon emissions throughout the world,” he said in a message, adding that he advocated a two-pronged approach to curbing climate change: reduce carbon emissions on one hand and rebuild lost ice on the other.
Experts praised the designers’ vision but cast doubt on the project’s feasibility.
“It’s like trying to save the sand castle you built at the beach using a dixie cup as the tide comes in,” Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Penn State, said of the iceberg-making proposal.

Mark Serreze, director of the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, offered a similar assessment. He called the project “very interesting” but said it raised more questions than it answered.
“What are you going to do, put out a flotilla of 10,000 submarines?” he said. “Who’s going to build them and how much energy does it take, and how are the submarines powered?” And unless they’re powered by wind or another clean energy source, he added, the submarines would need to burn fossil fuels, releasing even more planet-warming greenhouse gases into the air.

More important, Serreze said, rebuilding sea ice would do nothing to address the greenhouse gas emissions that are the root cause of climate change. “It’s simply a Band-Aid,” he said of the ice-making vessel idea.
Serreze voiced similar concerns about other recent proposals for geoengineering the environment to mitigate the effects of climate change, including everything from spraying sunlight-blocking aerosols into the atmosphere to deploying millions of wind-powered pumps to spread seawater over the planet’s northernmost reaches.

Such plans are often not feasible, he said, and they could have unintended consequences that compound our environmental problems. For example, he said, the spraying of aerosols in one region could lead to droughts in another. Nevertheless, he called geoengineering an important tool in the ongoing fight against climate change — but one that should be considered a last resort.
“There has been a lot of work on geoengineering, and it should continue,” he said. “We never want to go in that direction. But if it’s a last gasp, then you try it.”

18 Responses to “Ice, Ice Babies: Polar Ice Machine Leaves Experts Shaken, not Stirred”

  1. rsmurf Says:

    Another dumbass idea.

  2. renewableguy Says:

    Is this done with fossil fuels. Nuclear powered? How many thousands of these subs would it take to make a difference?

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha (snort)!

  4. jimbills Says:

    Jeepers. That’s more than a little similar to the old Futurama prediction at 1:01:

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Well, Futurama described going to the Halley’s Comet ice dispenser for the ice until the ice dispenser ran out!!

      There are only two major things wrong with the drop-ice-in-sea solution:
      (1) Sea level rises faster
      (2) Without a reduction in CO2, ocean acidification occurs faster

      Aside from those piddly side effects, I’m sold!

  5. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Arctic offshore oil drillers, built very thick ice platforms, by pumping sea water onto a ice flow in winter. Much cheaper than this and still a waste of resources.
    Note, heat is being taken out of the ocean, good, and into the atmosphere, bad. This is being accomplished by burning fossil fuels. Doubt there would be a net reduction in global warming.

  6. grindupbaker Says:

    I had no idea until now that Rex Tillerson is Indonesian. Chinese & Indonesians are inscrutable masters of disguise with their hoaxes.

  7. Bill Bour Says:

    Someone forgot basic physics. As long as those ice “babies” float in the ocean, they will have no effect on sea level. The ice has to be removed from the ocean somehow – another massive energy expenditure.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      you’re right, the persons quoted in the article seem confused. however it could have a positive effect on albedo over the arctic – but completely impractical without some kind of immense energy source that
      they don’t specify.

  8. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I wonder about creating synthetic, anchored “ice floes” to help maintain some habitat for marine mammals, much like the artificial reefs installed to expand or restore certain fish habitats. They don’t have to look pretty to be useful.

  9. mboli Says:

    Those are eight-sided. Six-sides would be your classic ice cube.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Give the suckers a break! They ARE six-sided (and also have a top and a bottom)—-note how neatly they fit together to make ice sheets in the illustration! Your “classic ice cube” would tend to roll and bump—messy.

      And maybe they will hire indigenous peoples to line the “icebergs” up and fit them together into “sheets” and thereby be job creators as well. (Although a 25 meter size hardly qualifies them for the term “berg”.

      I CANNOT wait to hear how much money investors plow into this scheme (or which governments are dumb enough to support it with $$$$). It’s brilliant enough to make me want to sell my Solar Roadway stock.

  10. redskylite Says:

    Wonder what took first place in the competition ?

    Where have all the ice-flows gone?
    Long time passing
    Where have all the ice-flows gone?
    Long time ago

    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    “Alaska’s waters are now completely free from ice, with the nearest ice shelf more than 240km away, scientists have warned.

    Following the warmest July on record, Arctic sea ice has been left 2 million sq km below the long-term average. Scientists warn this latest shrinkage is part of an Arctic-wide phenomenon that will lead to ice-free summers every year. ”

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