Earthshine 30+

How It Works

Image Credit: NASA

Page Revised 11–26–2021

The Problem

Thermal stress due to climate change is the dominant and most urgent threat in the next decades. Current levels of accumulated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is sufficient to induce a global average surface temperature rise between 1.8 to 3.7 degrees Celsius with greater than 90% confidence based on the most recent estimate of the Earth’s equilibrium climate sensitivity. Existing technologies, constrained by fundamental laws of thermodynamics, would take on the order of at least a century to capture back enough CO2 to stay within safe levels when implemented at scale. It is thus statistically improbable to meet the goals set by the 2015 Paris Agreement based on greenhouse gas emission reduction or capture.

100% Renewable Energies Starting Today is Not Enough

The loss of anthropocentric aerosols concurrent with a switch from fossil fuel energies will induce an additional global temperature rise on the order of 1 to 2 degrees Celsius. Reduced rate of CO2 emissions due to infrastructure maintenance for existing renewable options would be of little use for preventing a temperature rise beyond 3 degrees Celsius with respect to pre-industrial levels. The accompanying graph on the left plots future trajectories of the Earth in the CO2 temperature plane for hypothetical scenarios, each of which assumes that the global total consumption of energy comes from one particular technology.

It's Time To Make Her Shine

The MEER:ReflEction Framework comprehends complementary strategies that combine to produce synergism for mitigating intractable environmental problems. These problems—each of which is entwined with the profligate excesses of our failing economic system—include falling food production, dying ecosystems, escaping arctic methane, rising surface temperatures worldwide, and a sluggish transition to renewable energy. As its top engineering objective, the Framework prioritizes maximizing the health and functioning of ecosystems while minimizing ecological harm from resource extraction.

Earth’s ecosystems run on the power of sunlight. Mirrors are versatile tools that enable engineers to manage sunlight and convert it to clean and sustainable energy.

Earthshine 30+ is part of the MEER:ReflEction Framework. The earthshine strategy seeks to deploy durable and scalable arrays of glass mirrors to reflect sunlight back into space, away from Earth and her atmosphere. These mirrors can increase Earth's shine, or albedo, and, therefore, cool the climate and help ecosystems stay within temperature ranges that support life.

To complement Earthshine 30+, MEER:ReflEction engineers envision various designs for other arrays of glass mirrors that can harness electrical and thermal energy. Technologies—that were conceived within the Framework and that still are being developed within it—can produce a strong cooling effect on local environments, can increase the energy and food security of communities that deploy the mirror arrays, and are being designed to provide resilience for people in the Global South.