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As the climate crisis unfolds, scientists are proposing a very ambitious – and highly controversial – plan to refreeze the Earth’s poles to dial down the global thermostat, Sky News reported.

The plan would involve sending a fleet of 125 high-flying jets to spray microscopic sulfur dioxide particles into the atmosphere. The planes would release the aerosol particles at an altitude of 43,000 feet and a latitude of 60 degrees in the northern and southern hemispheres.

An international research team explained that the sulfur dioxide would then drift to the poles on high-altitude winds and slightly shade the Earth’s surface beneath.

In their study, they wrote that releasing more than 14 tons of particles during the spring and summer would be sufficient to cool the poles by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with a more moderate cooling at mid-latitudes.

But to enact such a plan, governments will have to first reach an international consensus on whether to release particles into the atmosphere. Another conundrum is that governments will need to make around 175,000 flights to release the particles, which would consequently release millions of tons of carbon dioxide.

Other scientists are also wary of releasing solar-shading particles because they could have unforeseen complications, such as lowering crop yields.

Lead author Wake Smith and his colleagues noted that only one percent of the globe’s population lives in the targeted areas. They argue that the program will cost just under $11 billion annually, which is considerably less than the price of carbon capture or other methods of mitigating or coping with climate change.

Even so, Smith cautioned that their plan mainly treats a symptom of climate change and not the cause.

“It’s aspirin, not penicillin,” he said. “It’s not a substitute for decarbonization.”

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