Image Credit: NASA
The Problem and Two Ineffective Solutions
Thermal overload and the extreme events that it already has begun to spawn constitute an early and extremely dangerous aspect of climate change. Based on the most recent estimate of Earth's equilibrium climate sensitivity, the greenhouse gases that have accumulated in the atmosphere now are sufficient to cause a global average surface temperature rise between 1.8–3.7 degrees Celsius. This range of probable outcomes represents a creeping sentence of death for Homo Sapiens. Fundamental laws of thermodynamics—working in tandem with practical limitations of energy, material, and time—constrain the use of industrial technologies for carbon recapture. Impairing efforts to scale up these technologies, the constraints prevent them from meaningfully interrupting Earth's heating trajectory, even by the lyrical year 2525. Meeting the goals that the Paris Agreement of 2015 (COP21) established is, therefore, from a statistical perspective, highly improbable, nay impossible, either by reducing emissions or by recapturing carbon.
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 right 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.
Helping to Restore
The MEER Framework combines complementary strategies to produce synergism for mitigating intractable environmental problems. These problems 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, MEER 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 and other specular reflectors are versatile tools that enable us to manage sunlight and convert it to clean and sustainable energy.
The strategy seeks to deploy durable and scalable land-based arrays of specular reflectors to redirect sunlight back into space, away from Earth and her atmosphere, increasing Earth's shine, or albedo while cooling the climate and helping ecosystems stay within temperature ranges that support life.
To complement this strategy, we envision various designs for other specular reflectors that can harness electrical and thermal energy, can produce a strong cooling effect on local environments, can increase the energy and food security of communities that deploy the reflector arrays, and can provide resilience for people in the Global South.