How Big Would a Futurama Ice Cube Need to Be to Combat Climate Change? (Hint: Really Big)

Sunday, 21 August 2016 - 12:31PM
Earth
Sunday, 21 August 2016 - 12:31PM
How Big Would a Futurama Ice Cube Need to Be to Combat Climate Change? (Hint: Really Big)
Global warming is a huge problem, and it's not going away anytime soon. As of this week, every single month in 2016 has been the hottest in recorded history, and we're already seeing the effects of manmade climate change in the fires that are ravaging parts of our country, the drought plaguing East Africa, and of course, the melting glaciers. 

Back in the early aughts, Futurama satirized our collective lack of response to this impending disaster in a hilarious skit entitled "Global Warming: None Like It Hot":



In this clip, future humans have decided to combat climate change by, every once in a while, dropping a humongous ice cube into the ocean. This is obviously meant to be, at best, a band-aid on a bullet wound, but is it as crazy as it sounds? According to the latest episode of Because Science with Nerdist's Kyle Hill, this method of combating global warming "theoretically makes sense, but is ridiculous":



According to Hill, the general theory behind the giant ice cube is scientifically sound. It takes a lot of energy to melt ice, so if you somehow had a way to funnel all of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases into one giant cube of ice, then it could potentially be absorbed and the rest of the world would be unaffected. But even in the Futurama skit, it was meant to be an absurd notion, because without addressing the actual problem, the cube would just get bigger and bigger and bigger until, presumably, it was too big to fit into the ocean.

So how big would it have to be today? By calculating the amount of excess energy caused by greenhouse gases (300TW), and dividing the excess energy per year by the amount of energy needed to melt ice, Hill found that we would need thirty quintillion grams of ice—or approximately 31,000 cubic kilometers—every year. To put that into perspective, if every single person on Earth produced about 5 kilograms of ice per day in their refrigerators, it would take over 2,000 years just to make one block of ice. So in true Futurama fashion, it's scientifically "sound," but also socially aware and hilariously absurd.
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