Wednesday, July 18, 2012

''Polartrons'' Will Be Havens in Warming World?

Danny Bloom is on a one-man campaign to get people to seriously

consider a worst-case prediction of the British chemist and inventor

James Lovelock: life in “polartons" arrayed around the shores of an

ice-free Arctic Ocean in a greenhouse-warmed world.

Dr. Lovelock, who in 1972 conceived of Earth’s crust, climate and

veneer of life as a unified self-sustaining entity, Gaia, foresees

humanity in full pole-bound retreat within a century as areas around

the tropics roast — a scenario far outside even the worst-case

projections of climate scientists.

After reading a newspaper column in which Dr. Lovelock predicted

disastrous warming, Mr. Bloom teamed up with Deng Cheng-hong, a Taiwanese artist, and

set up Web sites showing “polartons" designs for self-sufficient Arctic


Mr. Bloom told me his intent was to conduct a thought experiment that

might prod people out of their comfort zone on climate — which

remains, for many, a someday, somewhere issue.

“At six going on eight billion people,” Dr. Lovelock says, “the

idea of any further development is almost obscene. We’ve got to learn

how to retreat from the world that we’re in. Planning a good retreat

is always a good measure of generalship.”

The retreat, he insists, will be toward the poles. Therefore, says Bloom, “polartons" ....

It’s a dubious scenario, particularly on time scales shorter than

centuries. But — as we’ve written extensively in recent years — there

is already an intensifying push to develop Arctic resources and test

shipping routes that could soon become practical should the floating

sea ice in the Arctic routinely vanish in summers.

Sensing the shift, the Coast Guard has proposed establishing its first

permanent Arctic presence, a helicopter station in Barrow, Alaska, the

northernmost town in the United States.

It’s not a stretch to think of Barrow as a hub for expanding

commercial fishing and trade through the Bering Strait.

The strategic significance of an opening Arctic recently made the

pages of Foreign Affairs magazine, in an article by Scott Borgerson, a former Coast Guard officer

who is now a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“It is no longer a matter of if, but when, the Arctic Ocean will open

to regular marine transportation and exploration of its lucrative

natural-resource deposits,” he wrote.

So even if humanity isn’t driven to Arctic shores by climate calamity

at lower latitudes, it’s a sure bet that the far north will be an ever

busier place. Urban planners, get out your mukluks, the “polartons" are coming.

In the meantime, scientists, marathon runners, and others are already

making the North Pole a busy place.

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