Core Principles

1. What is "Earth's energy imbalance" (EEI), and why is it so important?

For hundreds of thousands of years, Earth's average temperature has remained within a specific range, allowing different life forms to thrive. Around 1760, the burning of fossil fuels found deep under the Earth's surface started to impact the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels generates carbon dioxide (CO2), preventing heat from escaping the Earth's atmosphere. Over time, this accumulation has caused the average temperature on our planet to rise.

This imbalance of energy flow, where more energy is arriving from the sun at any given time than can leave the Earth, is described as Earth's Energy Imbalance, or EEI. The EEI is essential because it is the key to the cause and the solution of global heating. When the energy on Earth is"balanced," it indicates that the amount of energy leaving the Earth equals the amount of energy arriving from the sun, resulting in a zero energy imbalance.

The Earth is getting hotter as we burn more and more fossil fuels, which releases more CO2 into the atmosphere. This is known as global warming. If the energy flow from the sun to the Earth and back out into space remains imbalanced, the Earth will continue to get hotter. This can eventually lead to the death of nearly all life on the planet.

Balancing Earth's energy is possible but a complex task requiring a multi-faceted approach. One of the critical steps towards achieving this goal is to revert to the energy balance that existed before the Industrial Revolution when human activities had a minimal environmental impact. This would involve reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, which significantly contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

In addition, we need to embrace alternative sources of energy that are sustainable and do not pollute the environment. Promoting energy conservation and efficiency by using energy-efficient appliances and buildings and adopting sustainable practices in our daily lives is also essential. This helps reduce the overall energy demand, which in turn helps to balance the energy equation on Earth and preserve the planet for future generations.

2. Could you clarify why MEER is not prioritizing CO2 reduction efforts?

Eliminating CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHG) is essential to the planet's long-term health. However, GHG mitigation alone will unfortunately not avoid crippling rising temperatures. Earth is already at 1.2°C above pre-industrial temperatures and is on track to reach 1.5°C this decade and then 2°C by 2040, with further increases to follow. Although it is unlikely that society will completely decarbonize by 2050, even if it did, the Earth would still experience warming due to two primary reasons, which are further explored in principle [5] regarding locked-in warming.

Firstly, the current GHG accumulated in the Earth's atmosphere continue to trap energy, contributing to the ongoing climate crisis. Unfortunately, society will take considerable time to effectively reduce the excess GHG levels through methods such as drawdown. This highlights the urgent need for immediate action to mitigate the impacts.

Secondly, when coal is burned, it releases aerosols that reflect sunlight back into space. This phenomenon is believed to contribute to a cooling effect of 1.3W per m2, which masks some of the harmful effects of fossil fuels. It is crucial to discontinue the usage of fossil fuels due to their lasting warming impact. Nonetheless, we must also discover a method to offset the cooling influence of aerosols; otherwise, the temperature will persist in escalating.

MEER believes that Solar Radiation Management (SRM) in the form of Surface Reflection technology (SRT) is necessary to lower temperatures immediately, preventing more severe global consequences and enabling GHG mitigation. It is crucial to prioritize temperature reduction measures alongside greenhouse gas mitigation efforts to prevent temperatures from exceeding the 2°C threshold. Neglecting this could lead to severe consequences, emphasizing the urgent need for immediate action.

3. What are the priorities of MEER in Solar Radiation Management?

Within Solar Radiation Management, MEER has three key priorities:

1. At MEER, we're dedicated to using existing technology to reduce temperatures immediately. Our surface mirrors reflect sunlight back into space, preventing it from being absorbed as heat by the Earth's surface. These arrays don't require any further technological advancements, which is crucial given the urgency to address rising temperatures. Additionally, our production methods are cost-effective and can be implemented globally.

2. MEER seeks to develop products that won't harm the environment through resource extraction or large-scale production. Instead, our products can be made from fully recyclable materials. MEER aims to recycle various materials, such as aluminium and plastic, to produce mirror arrays that reflect sunlight back into space.

3. MEER wants a product that can be made within the limits of excess usable energy by people. For the solution to be scalable, it must use less than 1/1000 of the power it reflects back to Earth, as explained in principle [8]. This means that for every 1kw used in production, 1 MW of power must be reflected back into space.

4. Is it possible to effectively combat global heat increases through collective efforts?

A common approach to addressing global warming is to embrace all potential solutions. These strategies can have a more significant impact if united and working together.

While some people advocate for various approaches to combat global warming to promote fairness and open-mindedness, there are concerns that this approach may not be the most effective and could potentially cause unintended consequences. While it may be helpful in certain situations to promote social acceptance, it is crucial to consider alternative solutions that are more appropriate for addressing this critical issue.

Unfortunately, the solutions proposed by climate experts, government officials, and industry leaders may not fully address the issue, even when their collective impact is considered. This is due to the significant amount of energy required to implement these solutions, which may exceed what is currently feasible given our basic needs for daily living.

5. What are the four most important requirements for any strategy to stop global temperature rise?

There are four main criteria that any strategy must fully satisfy to be considered a good possibility as a climate solution:

  • This method has been proven to offer cooling on a small scale while maintaining a minimum energy efficiency level.
  • Enough material exists for global use.
  • Enough energy exists for global use.
  • Global implementation that can be executed quickly.

This is a brief overview of the qualifications. However, more details are needed to comprehend each of them fully, and they may differ slightly depending on the specific strategy being considered.

6. What is locked-in warming?

Even if all human activities that emit greenhouse gases stopped immediately, the global temperature would still increase due to Locked-in Warming (LIW). LIW exists because the current EEI is greater than zero, estimated to be 1.8 W per m2 by NASA (CERES). When air pollution clears through decarbonization, the current EEI could increase by another 1.3 W per m2. This is because the aerosols released from burning coal reflect some light back to space, which cools the Earth. However, with the necessary reduction in coal usage, more light will be absorbed by the land or sea, leading to further Earth heating.

The Earth is currently accumulating excess energy at a rate of 1.8 watts per m2. This means that more energy is entering the Earth's system than leaving it every second, and this rate will increase after decarbonization. Consequently, the Earth's system will continue to heat up, storing the ever-increasing pool of heat trapped near the surface of the Earth.

Although the analysis of LIW and its correlation with EEI for predicting Earth's future temperatures is simple, the confusion surrounding this topic is quite intricate. However, to sum it up, the reason for this confusion can be explained as follows:

  • Misunderstandings about LIW are common due to the need for more public discussion.
  • There appears to be a level of hesitation among individuals, ranging from scientists to policymakers, business leaders, and activists when engaging in open discussions about LIW.
  • LIW presents particular difficulties for current forecasting methods, risk evaluation, and widespread measures to tackle global warming, making it a challenging reality.

There needs to be more awareness and clarity on the issue of LIW due to insufficient discourse. It has been observed that certain climate scientists, activists, and politicians have chosen to steer clear of or negate the existence of locked-in warming.

MEER is a research organization that extensively evaluates the scientific literature on a topic, engages in open discussions about its scientific implications, and educates stakeholders about the concept of locked-in warming. Our goal is to equip interested individuals with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions.

7. Can you provide information on the amount of locked-in warming and how it is measured?

This text is meant for non-scientists, so we will only provide a brief overview of the assessment and measurement of the EEI. A detailed understanding is beyond the scope of this text.

Scientists use empirical observations, such as satellite measurements, paleoclimate data, and computer-based numerical models, to establish Earth's total Energy Imbalance (EEI). This includes both the actual EEI and the portion masked by aerosols. By studying this some researchers can determine Earth's temperature response.

It has been observed that computer models tend to generate lower estimates in comparison to predictions that are based on empirical data. This phenomenon might be because the current climate models cannot entirely consider the scientific understanding of cloud-aerosol processes. As a result, these models need to fully assess the extent of locked-in warming, contrasting the observations made during experiments.

The phenomenon of "locked-in warming" entails a temperature rise that can reach anywhere between 1 to 4°C, and at present, we have already surpassed the 1.3°C mark. It is worth noting that future warming cannot be attributed to a specific figure.Instead, it falls within a particular range determined by the probability distributions of the underlying factors contributing to its estimation. Ongoing scientific research continuously strives to enhance the precision of estimates.Still, we will likely experience a warming of 1°C, irrespective of the various emissions scenarios.

8. Could you please clarify what CROI means and how it is utilized to gauge the efficacy of climate solutions?

MEER has developed a concept called CROI, similar to the well-known Energy Return on Investment (EROI) used in discussions about energy production. CROI stands for Cooling Return on Investment.

The Energy Return on Investment (EROI) measures the energy produced per input unit (such as money, materials, or energy). On the other hand, Cooling Return on Investment (CROI) calculates the amount of heat removed from the Earth system per unit of energy input used for cooling.

The EROI metric helps evaluate the efficiency of investments, but it doesn't provide information on climate change. On the other hand, the CROI metric is essential for assessing the efficiency of climate solutions in reducing the Earth's temperature.

9. What is the significance of CROI in selecting a climate solution?

The EEI currently has a power of around 1,500 terawatts. It's huge when you consider that only 18 terawatts are used each year to power all of our energy needs using fossil fuels. We're still determining how much of our energy use could be reduced to combat global warming, but it's likely to be a small fraction of that 18 terawatts. To put things into perspective, the airline, shipping, and cement industries consume 10% of that 18 terawatts, with each sector using 1.5%, 2.5%, and 6%, respectively.

In a best-case scenario, only a small percentage of our energy consumption (around 1TW) could be used to combat global warming. However, this 1TW must be capable of removing the EEI of 1,500TW from the Earth's system. Therefore, any strategy proposed must have a CROI that is substantially higher than 1,000. In other words, the 1TW of power must result in significantly more than 1,000TW of cooling or heat removal from the Earth.

Using CROI to find and eliminate false solutions:

Various approaches are being explored to reduce EEI through technology, industry, and nature. However, the availability of energy and the speed at which resources can be diverted present limitations in terms of practical solutions. Some methods commonly discussed may have yet to meet the expected CROI metric, leading to concerns about their effectiveness.

The Energy Return on Investment (EROI) measures the energy produced per input unit (such as money, materials, or energy). On the other hand, Cooling Return on Investment (CROI) calculates the amount of heat removed from the Earth system per unit of energy input used for cooling.

The EROI metric helps evaluate the efficiency of investments, but it doesn't provide information on climate change. On the other hand, the CROI metric is essential for assessing climate solutions' effectiveness in reducing Earth's temperature.

10. Why is using 100% renewable energy insufficient for solving our climate predicament?

There is a common misconception that transitioning exclusively to renewable energy can solve the problem of increased global heating. However, this belief needs to be revised for two reasons. Firstly, attaining 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality merely prevent us from causing further heating. Regrettably, the existing EEI will lead to ongoing heating, causing significant strain on Earth's ecosystem. Simply transitioning to renewable energy alone cannot fully address the issue of trapped heat and its effects.

Addressing the climate issue necessitates finding effective methods for mitigating the excessive accumulation of thermal energy on the planet's surface rather than solely focusing on expeditiously and inexpensively generating more power.