Workshop Motivation: The IPCC AR6 projects that sea level will rise by 0.5 to 1.0 m by 2100, with a low-likelihood, high-impact possibility of 2.0 m. Furthermore, sea level will not stop rising after 2100, even if emissions reduce. Sea-level rise beyond 2100 could amount to meters scale, especially if parts of Antarctica and Greenland are destabilized by processes happening today and over the next 80 years.

Sea-level rise threatens to impact valuable economic infrastructure (some say amounts to $30T worldwide) that contributes to human livelihood and socioeconomic security. It also impacts ecosystems and the stability of landscape flora and fauna. In some cases, sea-level rise threatens homelands and could instigate human conflict and suffering arising from migration.

Motivated by the hazards of projected sea-level rise, the workshop is convened to discuss one type of response to the hazard. (By far the most effective response, of course, is to stop emitting greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.) The questions of how to preserve ice volume in Greenland and Antarctica through technological interventions at or near key areas of these two regions will be the subject of the workshop. Loss of Alpine glaciation and stearic expansion of the ocean also affect sea level, but will not be considered by the workshop.

Workshop Objectives: The workshop intends to facilitate in-depth discussion of the scientific basis for variously proposed technologies and schemes for intervening in ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica. Examples of leading schemes include blocking ocean heat transport to grounding lines with underwater curtains and subglacial hydrologic intervention through drilling. The goal is to identify what artificial controls may have sufficient scientific merit to justify further scientific research and to define specific research pathways that will yield the greatest understanding. The workshop is primarily not intending to determine whether any particular scheme, or any scheme in general, is advisable, politically practical or ethical. There will be a short opportunity at the workshop to discuss these questions and to determine possible venues for their in-depth discussion in the future.

Outputs of the workshop will be, foremost, the generation of scientific discourse on the subject by leading scientists from around the world. Also to be produced is a “white paper” outlining the results of the workshop discussion on future scientific research and other activity needed to explore glacial engineering schemes. This white paper will be circulated to various public bodies including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Polar Research Board, the Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and various leadership councils of indigenous communities of the Arctic. A workshop report will be prepared for publication in a journal such as the American Geophysical Union’s EOS newsletter.

Workshop Organizers: 

Doug MacAyal, John Moore, Meghana Ranganathan