For the past 8 years, residents of the Swiss Alps have been wrapping glaciers in white blankets in order to reflect sunlight and reduce seasonal melting. David Volken, a Swiss glaciologist, told Agence France-Press that this method is probably working and may reduce melting by as much as 70%. This approach of covering glaciers with reflective material has also been in used in Italy and Germany, and some glaciologists started advocating for covering sections of the Greenland ice sheet in 2009.
How much of a role will innovative, local geo-engineering projects, like this one, play in mitigating the impacts of climate change?
A research group from Utrecht University has proposed another polar geoengineering idea, which involves blowing artificial snow across Switzerland’s Morteratsch Glacier to help reflect sunlight. Others have suggested using wind-powered pumps to squirt sea water over Arctic sea ice during the winter in order to prompt thicker, more stable ice formation. Scientists have also considered building artificial platform-like mounds underwater to prop up very vulnerable ice sheets from below.
Such efforts will need to work in combination with preventative measures. How can experts and local communities continue to work together to preserve and protect the environment?