Dr Ye Tao, at "The Rowland Institute" at Harvard, is explicit about what we need to do in order to escape our near-term extinction. We need to reverse the temperature rise caused by our rapid production of greenhouse gases, and also negate the hidden part of its temperature rise that is currently masked by all of our transient aerosol pollution. The challenge and its difficulty is made clear in this you-tube presentation.
Dr Ye Tao seems remarkably cheerful about our likely fate, if we just have business as usual. Perhaps it is because he describes something we could still do even now.
Tao notes that vast majority of climate change graphs obtained from google, on the subject of "Climate Change Graph" under "images", show a time series from the past to now. Nearly all the graphs from google search for "images" show the current fast rise in temperature and CO2, and it is easy to project that the continued trend threatens our global food security in the future. The following points are uncontroversial -
A more recent brief 7-minute video is all it takes for Tao to elaborate these points.
I have taken these image screenshots directly from the video link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxwjrOapM9I
The human induced change in atmosphere CO2 is very unnatural.
The change in [CO2] has effects on plants and animals, and ocean acidity, but they have wide ranges of physiological tolerance. It is rising temperature that is known to be a handicap for plants. More than 1-2 degrees C rise is likely to kill off many of our forest tree species and make food growing so much more difficult. We are already too close to the "heat-induced extirpation" range of evolved plants.
Making not unreasonable predictions from current rates of [CO2] increase, future global heating, global ice loss, and the loss of "the global aerosol effect", it seems that by 2070 global food production will collapse as we reach 3 degrees limit of average global heating intolerance.The average global temperatures represent skewed and seasonal varying distributions, are most deadly at the extreme hot end.
Global civilization will have ceased by 2070 with ongoing large scale human population crash. It will have begun to crash well before then of course, likely before 2030, but further global heating is still going to be "locked-in". Extinction isn't usually instantaneous. It is gradual, and happens when rates of life systems reproduction fail. Survival and successful reproduction diminishes. Species disappear and cannot be replaced. Cascades of species die soon after the the species they depended on. Since our global economies and money systems care not the in the slightest for the general life systems reproduction of our biosphere, this the logical projected results of unending growth of our global industrial-money systems culture.
We cannot let go of all fossil fuel burning just yet. In the first place, the energy requirements of our machine-powered economic system are a total addiction. For our atmosphere heat balance, the short-lived aerosols are constantly being remade. We have already masked something more than 1 degree of global heating. If we stopped all fossil fuel burning today, the rate of global heating will accelerate immediately as catch-up. The aerosol solar reflection effects will disappear quickly, and global surface temperatures will rise faster, to take up an extra degree of heating.
Dr Ye Tao's "solution" is to setup lots of cheap-to-make mirrors , as solar heat reflectors, with enough total surface area, to cancel out the global heating effect of too much [CO2]. The mirrors should be installed in the most sunny areas of the globe, so as to directly reflect the most incoming solar light energy straight back into space, as it comes in, before it is converted into heat wavelengths that are trapped by greenhouse gases. The raw materials to make the requisite number mirrors are readily available.
Scenarios Dr Tao did not cover - increased melt of icecaps and tundra, producing even more [CO2] than if we burned all of our accessible fossil fuel reserves. We need the increased solar reflectors from so many mirrors to avoid this situation as "Local albedo modifications". If we get to mass northern permafrost thaw, many more reflective mirrors will be needed. Large scale permafrost thaw will accelerate our greenhouse heating. https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/10/20/large-scale-permafrost-thawing/Concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) uses large moveable mirrors to generate electricity . On paper, at scale, CSP with thermal storage is an economic and emissions effective power grid solution, even compared to the equivalent power generation of widespread photovoltaic panels and wind turbines. CSP designs were the basis of an excellent scalable solution for Australia to install a 100% renewable power-grid system over 10 years, a project scoped out by "Beyond Zero Emissions". During the hottest summer months of longest days, there is more than enough solar energy flow, and unused mirrors face the sky, which reflects nearly all the extra energy straight back into space. This increases the albedo of our planet, and bypasses greenhouse gas heat trapping. Despite the optimism of such a solar-grid-power scheme, it never happened. Australia still depends on old coal.
The global cost of Dr Ye Taos, global heating solution, of US $10 per mirror, as global reflectors, is something like $500 billion. I am sure that is very cheap compared to the huge losses to come. The oceans need a lot of mirror cooling. This is another 10 year project, although these reflectors will need to in place for centuries until human additions to atmosphere greenhouse gases are all gone. The total surface area of mirrors required is direct measure of the heat energy flow imbalance that we have created. Yes of course that is a sizeable total area. There will be many arguments about who will pay. The political hurdles are considerable. Investing in saving the human species is completely outside the self-regarding scope of most political and financial institutions, hearts and minds. It is the biggest of all "someone else's problem fields". We really don't need to wait and stand around this time.
To take back temperatures of earth to pre-industrial levels, requires 3-4% of earths surface to be devoted to increasing planetary albedo. There has to be increase in reflected average of around 2 watts per square meter. This requires using deserts and oceans. The goal has to be to at least stabilize the global heating, so the oceans stop heating up. We need about 15-20 trillion square meters of added albedo protection.
One of the arty graphics show some spread arrays of circular mirrors floating in our seas. Our oceans make up the bulk of global heat storage, take up 70% of earth's surface area, and play a large role in nature's cycles and global heating. Manufacturing, transport and construction logistics mean that large mirrors are more easily constructed by using smaller and mass produced squares which are held together by a frame. Large SCP mirrors constructed using this "pixelation" on a rigid frame. Floating mirror frames will also need a buoyancy component and protection from erosion and chemical effects of sea water. It is not likely to be quite as easy and cheap as it sounds on first hearing.
The enormity of our planetary systems deficits
There is even a plan to use plentiful concentrated thermal power to create calcium oxide to dump into the ocean and reverse acidification, and buffer more atmosphere CO2. The calcium source is could be from plentiful limestone, (presuming capture and geologic storage a pure CO2 source) or the calcium carbonate of seashells we eat. This is called "Ocean Liming". The possibility of successful "carbon dioxide capture and storage" technology directly from the air is summarily dismissed. The shell fish idea fails to mention that shell fish need to get their calcium from sea water in the first place. Returning the calcium to the sea would be better than burial in rubbish tips.
Dr Ye Tao presentations were highlighted in a recent Cassandra - legacy blog, by Ugo Bardi, who noted the ease of which physicists and engineers can do these back of the envelope calculations, to produce viable models. These models are more than just back of the envelope. They are backed by a lot of hard research and engineering understanding. In contrast we have the incredible difficulty of getting politicians to heed the conclusions of the very simplest of physics models, and their long standing failures to actually do their jobs to encourage social and resources cooperation to realise plans and achieve any sort of results.
The problem seems to be that their training is in "political parties" of special interests and ideology, with emotional skin-in-the-game driven brains, rather than actually providing a social service. One of these professional types do not seem to be doing their jobs properly at all. On current form, the specialty of politicians seem to be untrained, generally uncooperative and combative, these kinds of people are likely to turn out to be the most utter failures in the short history of the human species. Politician could just about manage PR appearance, when resources were plentiful and global heating was deniable, and economic exploitation was gung-ho. This political species is now a global liability. (Australia's Tony Abbott comes to mind)
Let's just forget all about this and talk about something else
Our social organization, has great complexity as a network of cooperation, among individual "bubble-world" specialties. We learn new stuff slowly and reject it when it clashes with what we think we know. We are also brought up with different languages and cultures as barriers to communication. Social adaption to change is measured in generational time. Now social media divides the internet world into little freak zones of echo chambers. These are our species strengths that work for organized exploitation of nature and other peoples, but they are also made up with huge amounts of cognitive blindness to the worlds of others.
Social decision making capacity is over-concentrated by extreme inequality of power and wealth to just a few individuals and their ideas, captured by specific means of money making. The enhanced protection of such networks results in narrow-minded and rigid over-valued centers of "status and power". This amounts to concentrated command and control, in what ever language or political labels we put on them. Democracies are ruled by financial "markets", and work together with other totalitarian systems in the same human money-bubble world. There is marked failure of power and status networks, which depend on exploitation, to adapt to fast changing facts. Science and fast changing facts have become the most feared and rejected political objects, to political networks of human social status. Politicians prefer to think in terms of their past bubble world, as we all do, which is rapidly becoming irrelevant. Political mayhem will worsen as our systems will soon be failing to cater for basic biological needs of citizens. For too many this is already true.
"Everyone in this room will witness the end, if we don't do anything.
. . .Either we come together in unity to solve this, or we all perish"
-- Dr Ye Tao.
The project was first described as titled "Mirrors for Earth’s Energy Rebalancing (MEER:ReflEction): Resource-driven engineering for leveraging Earth's chemistries to immediately offer remediation".