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‘Snowpiercer’s climate engineering could help us to refreeze Earth’s poles in real life

In the 2013 science fiction film Snowpiercer, humanity attempts to stem the bleeding of human-driven climate change by releasing a whole bunch of particles into the atmosphere. The idea is to block out some percentage of sunlight and cool the planet. Obviously, things did not go according to plan for the residents and survivors on the Snowpiercer. The movie is an examination of inequity within the microcosm of the titular train, but it’s just as much a warning about the potential pitfalls of climate engineering. Still, there are those within the scientific community who are pursuing similar strategies for future use in the real world. We can only hope such fictional dystopian predictions don’t come true.

For most of us, we interface with climate change in small ways. The documentary Climate of Change (now streaming on Peacock!) outlines some of the common ways ordinary people are working to restore the environment. We use canvas shopping bags and recycle, we buy an electric car, or put solar panels on the roof. We each take small steps which, hopefully, collectively make a big difference. The reality, however, is that climate change largely isn’t driven by the everyday actions of individual people. It’s a vast, systemic problem resulting from the organized efforts of corporations and governments. A problem born of large causes will likely need equally large solutions.

At its root, anthropogenic climate change is the result of excess greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. As concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane increase — there are other greenhouse gases, but these are the big baddies — they trap increasing amounts of heat in the air. Consequently, average global temperatures rise. Truly stopping and reversing climate change will require the cessation of greenhouse gas emissions and, probably, some form of carbon capture to pull carbon out of the air and sequester it.

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