A NEARLY CARBON-NEUTRAL CONFERENCE | #EHIClimateCOVID
ABSTRACTS AND BIOS – STREAM 4: ALTERNATIVE FUTURES, TECHNOLOGICAL AND POLITICAL
“Introduction and Conceptual Framework”
Jagger Alexander, Ellie Flint, Wrishija Roy, Sebastian Barquin Sanchez, Zoe Lilja Zwecke, and Ye Tao
Immediately ending carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 is no longer sufficient to solve the climate crisis. This robust conclusion follows from an in-depth review of the scientific literature and can be appreciated by examining high-impact publications and key consensus reports. Examples are many, and include the 2018 IPCC report, the most recent assessments of the Earth’s climate sensitivity, analyses of thermal tolerances of life forms on earth, and projected timing of planetary-scale ecosystem collapse.
In response to the urgency of the climate catastrophe, Mirrors for Earth’s Energy Rebalancing (MEER:ReflEction) is a multi-pronged framework to reverse anthropogenic climate change by directly neutralizing thermal threats. This plan obviates the need for the impossible task of fast, large-scale direct air capture of CO2 mandatory in conventional mitigation strategies. The framework further distinguishes itself from conventional geoengineering approaches by being relatively free of the termination shock problem and is uniquely able to catalyze the transition to renewable energies.
Two panels in this conference introduce the new framework. The first panel (The Path to Sustainability Amidst Catastrophic Climate Change) is devoted to reviewing the physical laws and biological principles underlying the effectiveness of the approach. It also examines the project within current understandings of geoengineering alternatives, from technical, philosophical, and ethical perspectives. The second panel (Closing Biogeochemical Cycles through Solar Thermal Valorization of Discarded Resources) examines several coherent and complementary subprojects that would enable the closure of currently open carbon and nitrogen loops to generate significant health, ecosystem, food security, and climate co-benefits.
“How MEER: ReflEction can Save Humanity”
Isabel Wellington, Sophia Morgan, Skye Lam, and Ye Tao
Current levels of accumulated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is sufficient to induce a global average surface temperature rise between 1.8-3.7C with greater than 90% confidence based on the most recent estimate of the Earth’s equilibrium climate sensitivity. This level of heating, projected to result in a sixth mass extinction, is already locked in place, and simply stopping human practices that have led to this disaster will not be enough to stop our current trajectory. Climate mitigation is thus necessary to rebuild the failing health of our planet long term, with immediately reversing the temperature rise a top priority. Geoengineering, or the deliberate modification of our natural climate systems, is necessary for the expeditious climate control required to avoid catastrophic events beyond redemption. The MEER: ReflEction project is a geoengineering project capable of achieving the basic prerequisites for a recovery of Earth’s ecosystems. This will be done through the use of affordable glass mirrors, that will reflect the sun rays and give humans the ability to moderate surface temperatures and guide the physical conditions of the planet towards a habitable temperature range. Implementation of geoengineering on this caliber requires government agency support and funding. This will be difficult, as geoengineering has long been criticized by those who view it as an attempt to replace mitigation. Due to this common misconception engendered by earlier generations of geoengineering concepts, the approach has yet to see developed governance and widespread implementation. We perform a comprehensive review of prior geoengineering projects and find termination shock, governance, spatial distribution, and lack of transparency as traits that caused issues for implementation. These concerns will be addressed, in addition to methods of implementation, in relation specifically to the MEER: ReflEction project. Social media use, a project website, and media contact outreach can garner the attention the project needs to acquire notoriety to back proposals advocating for government agencies to subsidize and implement the project internationally. Implementation of the MEER: ReflEction project by 2025 will result in a deployment rate large enough to negate the positive radiative forcing leading the Earth to irreversible calamity.
“Energy and Temperature Team Presentation”
Jagger Alexander, Ryan Habeck, Rabeya Hussaini, Karthik Ramesh, and Ye Tao
Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased global temperature by 1.5C since the industrial revolution. At the current level of industrial capability, humanity can survive a two-degree Celsius increase in temperature above the 1750 baseline for about 10 years, after which the future of our species is at risk. Project MEER: ReflEction offers the possibility of surface-albedo modification using land-based and floating mirror arrays to reduce the surface temperature, though insufficient quantitative analysis has so far been conducted to assess its cooling efficiency and other climate impacts. Here, we develop a physical model of how incoming solar radiation enters Earth’s systems and transform into heat and IR radiations. We analyze how this energy flow process affects temperature in atmospheric, terrestrial, and marine systems, and how modification of surface albedo with mirror arrays would affect global and local temperatures. Our model is wavelength-resolved, enabling easy coupling to engineering systems and devices with wavelength-dependent properties. Here we will present the energy flow mechanisms underpinning our model as well as preliminary results. We expect this tool to facilitate the planning of mirror implementation to prevent catastrophic global warming and helps promote the survival of our species.
“Ecological Modeling Team Presentation”
Riti Bhandarkar, Ellie Flint, Alfredo Quezada, Asia Zhang, and Ye Tao
As rising global temperatures alter atmospheric chemistry, nutrient cycles, and carbon fluxes, quantifying these disturbances and their effects on marine and terrestrial ecosystems is integral in proposing large-scale climate change solutions. Project MEER:ReflEction2 aims to stabilize global physical conditions through the implementation of durable non-toxic glass mirror arrays.
As we develop the mirror arrays we find that assessing their impact, as well as that of environmental stressors, on surrounding ecosystems’ health is crucial. To solve this, we develop a zero-dimensional mechanistic model to bridge the gap between fundamental physical parameters and an existing model of food web interaction (Ecosim3 (EwE)). Specifically, we simulate the effects of future trends in temperature, moisture, and CO2 levels on a grassland ecosystem, with and without the implementation of Project MEER:reflEction’s climate-stabilizing mirror arrays. Here, we present our preliminary primary production model and discuss initial results in the context of relevant existing empirical studies. We also discuss future plans to add to the model’s complexity, introduce trophic hierarchy, and further improve its accuracy. We expect that our mechanistic model will provide a new and invaluable approach to evaluating the impacts of, and proposing informed solutions to best mitigate, climate change.
“Urban Built Environment Team Presentation”
Romy Pein, Andrew Scacchi, Gregory Pan, Sebastian Barquin Sanchez, and Ye Tao
Our current approach to energy generation, storage, and distribution in industrialized countries is environmentally unsustainable. The most common energy generation schemes involve conversion to electricity for long-distance transportation, then further conversion to another end-use energy form, such as heat. The inherent act of energy conversion creates loss, and scientific research around this field has been focused on minimizing such losses. Unfortunately, said advancements are exceeded by the growing demand for energy, justifying the need for new approaches. We introduce the concept of the Energy-Demand Vector (EDV) and propose a new standard in sustainable energy generation. Components of the EDV represent the amount of energy in different end-use forms that a consumer community requires, including, but not limited to: light, thermal, chemical, and mechanical energy. By converting a primary energy source to different end-use forms in proportions similar to the EDV, we maximize economy by eliminating unnecessary losses in secondary energy conversion steps.
“Ocean Deacidification Team Presentation”
Brittany Jones, Drew Lirab, Wrishija Royc, and Ye Tao
Centuries of anthropogenic CO2 input has reduced seawater pH1 and increased pCO₂ levels2, intertwining ocean acidification and global warming. This will exacerbate threats to marine species, inducing developmental abnormalities6, olfactory impairment, reduced predation8,9,10, and shell dissolution. A comprehensive analysis of phytoplankton species illustrates a wide pH optima range suggesting tolerance to foreseeable pH changes. However, the business-as-usual CO2 emissions scenario is expected to increase global sea surface temperature 0.05-0.5℃ per decade, decelerating the growth rate of phytoplankton whose average temperature optima is 15.8-23.4℃. Marine heatwaves, projected to increase by orders of magnitude, have already led to exceedance with disastrous ecosystem consequences. It is thus critical to consider relative sensitivities to different stressors within marine biology when targeting global warming and its impacts. MEER:ReflEction is an all-encompassing engineering framework to combat global temperature rise, restore marine ecosystems, and maintain phytoplankton health. Here we assess the scale, constraints, and impacts of Artificial Ocean Alkalinization to design a strategy to close the carbon cycle to simultaneously address warming and acidification. Ocean liming is viable when CaO production is powered by concentrated solar energy and combined with on-site capture and storage/utilization of pure CO2 streams. We find optimal locations for lime distribution in shallow, subtropical, coastal waters for biophysical reasons and for a long-term, cyclic strategy with renewably-sourced lime via coupling to shellfish aquaculture. We highlight the need to properly engineer solution loops and execution details for net-positive ecological impacts.
“Mechanical Engineering Team Presentation”
Mohan Hathi, Chris Stokes, and Ye Tao
As the climate changes, planetary ecological systems and humanity face a series of threats, one of the most urgent and severe being extreme heat and thermal changes due to energy imbalances. Project MEER: ReflEction seeks to create versatile mirror-based infrastructures to mitigate temperature extremes. As a part of this effort, we design and build a small-scale heliostat apparatus with active sun-tracking capabilities that is immune to wind loads and low in construction requirements. The device reflects incoming sunlight and concentrates it to a focal point. We use a flat-plane concentrator (fresnel lens-style) approach, with an array of eighty 2.5’’ mirrors in a 1 m2 rectangular grid, which are mounted on universally-articulated individually-angled 3d-printed blocks. The system uses a microcontroller and two stepper motors to angle the mirror system on two axes, maintaining a desired stationary focal point as the sun moves across the sky. The system is designed for a peak power of ~1kW under optimal conditions, enabling a maximum operating temperature of 900 degrees C. Our small-scale model focuses light into a reaction chamber to sustainably calcinate calcium carbonate in clamshells, a process that enables efficient capture of a pure CO2 offgas stream. The device is also intended to be a model for larger-scale heliostat apparatuses. We also plan to make the design open-source, modular, and affordable, so that it can be created by DIYers or makers, and inspire people of all ages to learn about solar concentrators, mirrors, and novel solutions for climate change.
“Material Science Team Presentation”
Xiaohui Han, Asian Zhang, and Ye Tao
The unrestrained pursuit of economic growth by an increasing human population has led to unprecedented global challenges including the depletion of traditional forms of energy, accumulation of greenhouse gas, crop yield reduction, biodiversity loss, and the Sixth Mass Extinction. A backdrop to all these challenges is the centrally urgent issue of climate change. The ability to exert control and repair the deteriorating climate would provide a direct and effective platform for solving most of these threats. Considerable efforts have been expended by many in the fight against climate change; however, a comprehensive strategy based on a global perspective and rooted in the realities of Earth is still lacking. Project MEER: ReflEction is a framework that seeks to bridge this gap by centrally considering resource availabilities on Earth at the scale required to steer the climate of the planet in an ecologically-compatible fashion. In this study, we assess the properties, availability, manufacturability, scalability, and potential toxicities of various glasses as structural and functional material for building a new global infrastructure essential for the persistence of this civilization. We discuss the properties of existing glass technologies in the context of several conceptually novel infrastructures that can foster our transition to a more sustainable and energy-efficient future, while gaining control of the Earth’s surface temperature.
“NOx Valorization Team Presentation”
Youngyoon Choi, Priyansh Sharma, Sophia Yue, Zoe Zwecker, and Ye Tao
The non-circularity of our current economy is characterized by accumulations of direct and indirect waste products that cause high levels of pollution and deteriorate ecological conditions. Climate change is one unintended and poorly-reversible repercussion of an imperfect closure of the carbon cycle, leading to an atmospheric accumulation of C1 gases (CO2 and CH4). We examine portions of the nitrogen cycle and show that re-engineering for a more efficient closure has the potential to promote both global warming mitigation and a more sustainable, circular economy1. Specifically, we propose viewing nitrogen oxides (NOx), a waste product in fossil fuel-based energy generation as a valuable resource of activated nitrogen. We compile a global inventory of NOx production and find the total amount of activated nitrogen is sufficient to supply a substantial portion of current global demand. A review of literature on emerging NOx capture technology and electrochemical conversion promises considerable scope for the production of activated nitrogen compounds currently in use, including ammonia and urea. We also review recent literature on the atmospheric chemistry of NOx and their products to find a re-emission strategy away from urban centers to mitigate respiratory health locally and maintain indirect radiative forcing globally. Further analysis suggests that relocation over marine coastal regions has a net global cooling effect and a net positive effect for marine primary production. This study exemplifies the interconnected complexities of humans and biogeochemical cycles on Earth, and highlights the possible network of benefits from holistic approaches.
Don Hall, Jessica Alvarez Parfrey, Anna Willow, and John Foran
This session consists of one individual talk and one conversation among four scholar-activists deeply engaged in the co-creation of systemic alternatives to the climate crisis and other crises of our times, from the Transition Towns movement in the United States.
In the conversation, three scholar activists from across the United States –Don Hall, Jessica Alvarez Parfrey, and Anna Willow – respond to three questions posed by facilitator John Foran: 1) to briefly introduce themselves and their work and to comment on their experiences during the pandemic, 2) to offer analyses of the nature of the crises humanity faces today, and 3) most importantly, to discuss the best ways and examples they know of how to confront these crises with imagination, radical activism, and alternative worlds.
Don Hall has had the good fortune to participate in the international Transition Towns Movement in a variety of capacities over the past 12 years. Initially serving for two years as the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Transition Colorado, he went on to found and direct Transition Sarasota (Florida) from 2010 to 2016. A certified Transition Trainer and experienced facilitator, Don was named Co-Director of Transition US in 2017 and became its Interim Executive Director in 2020. Don holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Leadership from Naropa University, a certification in Permaculture Design from the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, and currently lives in a multigenerational housing cooperative in Boulder, Colorado. In 2019, he edited and published 10 Stories of Transition in the US: Inspiring Examples of Community Resilience-Building.
“Creating a New Culture: Exploring Transition as Cultural Revitalization”
In this presentation, I explore Transition—an international movement that promotes local resilience in anticipation of climate change and fossil fuel scarcity—as a cultural revitalization movement. Although Transition addresses the quintessential twenty-first century environmental issues of climate change, resource depletion, and fossil fuel dependency, it is distinguished from most environmental movements by its explicit call to change and generate culture. Like other revitalization movements, it is “a deliberate, organized, conscious effort by members of a society to construct a more satisfying culture” (Wallace 1956: 265). Participation in Transition offers a hopeful remedy for existential angst, reclaims the possibility of a positive future, creates space for subtle yet radical resistance, and engenders a multi-scalar sense of community. Drawing on participatory ethnographic research, I suggest that participation in movements like Transition may be as much about personal wellbeing and community cohesion as about expressing environmental values and beliefs. Ultimately, I argue, taking the social dimensions of environmental movements seriously means embracing environmental and (inter)personal action as both complementary and inextricably intertwined. More pragmatically, exploring environmental movements’ social aspects sheds new light on why individuals choose to participate (or not) in the campaigns needed to bring about broad behavioral changes and evade catastrophic climate change and socioecological collapse.
Anna J. Willow is a professor of anthropology at the Ohio State University, USA. An environmental anthropologist who studies how individuals and communities experience and respond to externally imposed resource extractive development, her most recent work considers Transition as a cultural alternative to carbon-infused overconsumption. She is the author two books, including Understanding ExtrACTIVISM: Culture and Power in Natural Resource Disputes (Routledge, 2018) and Strong Hearts, Native Lands: The Cultural and Political Landscape of Anishinaabe Anti-Clearcutting Activism (SUNY, 2012). She is also the editor of Anthropology and Activism: New Contexts, New Conversations (Routledge, 2020) and ExtrACTION: Impacts, Engagements, and Alternative Futures (Routledge, 2017).Willow received her PhD in cultural anthropology in from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as well as a Master of Science in natural resources and environment from the University of Michigan. For additional information about Dr. Willow’s research, please see http://anthropology.osu.edu/people/willow.1.
Gabi Jubran, Leslie Sklair, and Boris Holzer
“Juice and Sauce – A Regenerative Framework intended to facilitate shared understanding across cultures and generations”
We live in a dominant culture based on consumption and extraction of resources from the planet and people (JUICE). A regenerative future means enriching and not eroding the very things we depend upon. To me, that means lifting up that which is unique from each person, community and culture (SAUCE). In my experience working in social change, there are many ways of communicating this message — shifting from scarcity to abundance, attention economy to intention economy, war to peace, fear to love — ultimately, it’s all about bringing more life into the world by being and becoming better versions of ourselves individually and collectively. Juice and Sauce is my way of communicating that message so that it resonates with large youth driven cultures like Hip-Hop, Video Game and Memes. What’s critical about this framing is that it isn’t binary, juice (energy) and sauce (creation) are both spectrums AND both are necessary for our thriving. We could live in a world run off of renewable clean juice that empowers us as individuals to create our own unique special sauce. I will map the ways the words show up colloquially in our culture and how to use the english language to shift the way we think about ourselves and each other. I’ve already already shared this framing via a TEDxOakland talk last November, but 10 minutes is only a small taste. I’m really excited about the opportunity to have more time to deepen the metaphor and share it with a broader audience. I’ve seen the power that Juice and Sauce has in creating a shared language for people across cultures and generations.
Gabi Jubran is a community weaver, systems thinker and storyteller committed to the shift from a system built on extraction to one designed for regeneration. He seeks to unify social movements around a shared purpose of supporting our individual and collective well-being. He is passionate about bridging cultures and generations through a common language leading to shared understanding. He is Founder/Executive Director of HAPPI (Helping Awesome Parents Parent Intentionally) which intends to cultivate healthy communities that help parents and kids be present, be themselves and be happi.
“The Anthropocene in Global Media: Neutralizing the Risk”
Leslie Sklair and Boris Holzer
My forthcoming book The Anthropocene in Global Media: Neutralizing the Risk compares how the Anthropocene has been dealt with by scholars and by media. Within the academic world of Anthropocene Studies there are two epistemic communities, sometimes overlapping. The first encapsulates the wider Earth System science community, rapidly followed by another, encapsulating social sciences and environmental humanities (SS/EH). Sociologists, anthropologists, historians, economists, and philosophers who write on the Anthropocene do not normally go into the field with geological hammers, or measure ocean acidification, deforestation, the death of coral reefs or other material consequences of anthropogenic eco-system change. This is the rather confusing picture that media around the world are forced to contend with in communicating what the Anthropocene is all about to the general public. (There are uncomfortable parallels here with how scientists and the media deal with the Coronavirus pandemic).
The Anthropocene Media Project (AMP) started in late 2016, with a team of volunteer researchers collecting data from online searches of newspapers, magazines, and news websites from around the world. Media with paywalls were excluded. ‘Global warming’ and ‘climate change’ (often used as metonyms for the Anthropocene) do not implicate the impact of the human species for the non-science population, while the Anthropocene (often referred to as ‘the Age of humans/man’) explicitly does this, even for non-scientists. This suggests that the relative paucity and nature of Anthropocene coverage in the media may have an ideological motive. The analysis of Anthropocene coverage in the AMP supports this interpretation.
Leslie Sklair is Emeritus professor of sociology, London School of Economics. Works on capitalist globalization and its impacts on class polarization, environmental degradation (especially the Anthropocene), architecture, and cities.