Drawdown – a detailed guide to reducing climate impact

Paul Hawken is an optimist about battling our climate change crisis. He is also active in planning to do something about it. But, who is he? Hawken is an author, advocate and businessman who is the Executive Director of Project Drawdown, based his book “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Priposed to Reverse Global Warming.”

The book is based on the concept of drawing down the amount of carbon that is getting dangerously present in our atmosphere and warming the planet. It summarizes 100 solutions noting their cost, long term savings and estimated impact. Project Drawdown has an impressive Board of Directiors and research staff offering a seriousness of purpose.

Rather than list all 100, let me note the top ten solutions, which are interesting and makes one think holistically. And, some of these have small price tags.

1. Refrigeration Management: While the hydrocarbons that were hurting the ozone were banned, their replacement (HFCs) is warming our planet, much of it released in the last few years of life of the refrigerator. There is a plan to phase out HFCs from new refrigerators. It is also key to decommission old refrigerators earlier to prevent the greater release.

2. Offshore Wind Turbines: With the heavy ocean breezes, the offshore turbines have a huge upside on savings and impact. As with onshore wind energy, the cost has dramatically declined and wind energy is ready to replace even more fossil fuel energy sourcing. Offshore wind energy is being used significantly by other countries, with the first US development opening last December off Rhode Island.

3. Reduced Food Waste: Of all the issues, with relative little cost, we can make a huge dent in emissions from unused, rotting food. Between supermarkets, restaurants and homes, this wastage could be minimized with some concerted efforts which would not compromise taste. Better labeling on best-by dates, using imperfect looking food, better food planning at home, better gleaning of unpacked crops, using local produce more, etc. would produce dividends.

4. Plant Rich Diet: If cows were a country, they would be third largest abuser of the climate change impact. By shifting to more plant rich diets, we can reduce the amount of emissions leaked into the atmosphere and improve our own health.

5. Tropical Forests: We have greatly reduced our carbon eating forests, which has changed the equation dramatically. The planet used to be covered 12% by tropical forests, but it has declined to 5%. By replenishing tropical forests, the trees can have a positive impact on the environment and absorb more carbon.

6. Educating Girls: I have been an advocate of this for civil rights and economics, but it has a significant impact on climate. Hawken notes through education, girls can enter womanhood on their own terms. Now, too many girls are married at very young ages and never have a chance to consider a career. The younger they are married, the more children they have. Also, more educated women, means more intellectual capital to solve problems.

7. Family Planning: This goes hand in hand with the education of women. Larger family size is highly correlated with increased poverty. It is also highly correlated with a larger carbon footprint. Our planet also does not have unlimited resources, so we need to use what we have more efficaciously. If all people consume like the average North American, we have 2X too many people already.

8. Solar Farms: The cost of solar has dropped dramatically and jobs are growing Β at an annual double digit rate for the past several years. Solar farms are much cheaper to build than a power plant and will continue their growth rate as battery storage improves.

9. Silvopasture: What does this mean? It is an ancient practice of integrating trees and pastures for crops and livestock. The symbiosis of the two better controls carbon absorption in a sustainable way.

10. Rooftop Solar: Putting solar panels on rooftops scares utility companies as it changes their model. Solar energy need not be done only through big projects to be effective. It can be very decentralized, Utilities are pushing back in several states to buy surplus electricity at a lower rate than they sell it when you need it at night. As battery storage improves, solar power will be even more integrated and expansive.

Hawken says we need to be alarmed by what is happening by climate change, but we should plan to act and then act. While discouraged by the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, he said the positive is far more Americans are aware of climate change and cities, states and businesses are acting in lieu of the void caused by the federal government.

I have been encouraged by this renewed vigor in addressing climate change. There are many good things occurring in the US and abroad. We can no longer wait and should celebrate, focus and leverage these solutions.



28 thoughts on “Drawdown – a detailed guide to reducing climate impact

  1. Dear Keith,

    I love this concept. We can all participate to our part in reducing climate change impact. For example, most of us can do our part by purchasing a newer refrigerator, eating more vegetables and by wasting less food.
    I will be purchasing this book.
    Hugs, Gronda

  2. This seems an effective and beautiful plan. Have not heard the term “silvopasture” and love the vision of cattle lounging and/or farmers taking a break under a shade tree — an old practice that must stem from common sense.

    • JoAnn, I was not familiar with the term either. It is a great concept. The ecologist/ biologist Sandra Steingraber speaks of a return to more natural fertilizers. She contends the chemicals used now are being brewed further by climate change like a crock pot. Keith

    • Thanks Erika. I agree. The food wastage is one we call could embrace. Here in the states, the supermarkets want perfectly shaped fruits and veggies and, all to often, the slightly imperfect may get tossed without concerted effort. For some distributors it is easier to toss than redistribute, which should not be the case. Keith

  3. I, too, am encouraged and I really like Hawkens’ ideas. If each of us do whatever we can, it helps (and now I feel terribly guilty over the blackened bananas I tossed into the trash last night). However, businesses and governments need to act also. Some are … and that is very encouraging, but I think we need to make a concerted effort to hold businesses, states and localities accountable for doing their part. I will check out Hawkens’ book … I would like to see what other ideas he has. Thanks for sharing this!

      • Jill, I fully understand. Sometimes, we will reinvent leftovers – spaghtetti becomes a spaghetti pie, e.g. That helps. Keith

      • Sigh … I know … I should have, but I was tired and had a thousand things to get done, so I just … pitched them … πŸ˜₯ 🍌🍞 🍌 🍞🍌🍞

      • Understandably, we find it difficult to do everything. And time can be our biggest enemy in trying not to be wasteful. It may be the biggest reason that people don’t try to recycle, cut waste and stop material spending. Cheap goods make it so easy to toss away stuff and buy new. But there is an environmental consequence and we are now facing it. It isn’t about bananas (which have no real environmental consequence) but it is about trying to do more with less.

      • Colette, you hit upon a key reason why recycling and repurposing food (or things) does not occur. It is easier to toss.

        Some food distributors say it is easier to toss unwanted food than to spread the donations. Here is where investment could occur. Have some entity help “glean” the food from the fields and pallets. There are gleaning groups such as The Scottish Guild of St. Andrews (I think that is their name), but more is needed at the distribution sites. Keith

      • I think there is more movement in the UK to stop waste and address the problems of improperly discarded rubbish. There is a plan underway to put deposits on drinks bottles and cans. It will be welcomed I think. Kids will generally collect anything that might bring them a bit of cash.

  4. Note to Readers: I was speaking with a native Texan who finds the climate change naysaying as preposterous, given his work over the years of evaluating the impact of climate change on fish populations. Yet, even he was unaware of what is happening to Exxon-Mobil with separate class action lawsuits by employees and shareholders that management has overstated the value of the company by no reflecting the impact of climate change on its business. Similarly, two
    State Attorney Generals and the SEC are undergoing an investigation into misrepresentation of climate change impact to its shareholders. Further, Exxon-Mobil dared scientists to look at their scientific data – a Harvard group took them up on it and found 84% of peer reviewed research by Exxon-Mobil scientist support the claim that climate change is an existential threat and is man-influenced. Yet, management consistently said the data was not clear.
    It should be noted the day before Trump said he would exit the Paris accord, 62% of Exxon-Mobil shareholders voted in favor of requiring management to report on what they are doing about climate change on an annual basis. Two other companies now have similar requirements – Occidental Petroleum and PPL, a utility.

  5. Great piece Keith. We can do so much without a lot of effort

    Very little to no food is wasted by me or my husband (he is the cook). Everything gets used and we no longer peel veggies, but scrub them instead.
    I am a vegan (he isn’t but eats less meat now and no dairy). We try to reuse everything…old T-shirts become cleaning rags; jeans with worn knees become shorts; plastic fruit punnets become plant pots for seeds to grow; toothbrushes are reused to clean cracks and crevices; old laundry soap bottles become watering cans, worn towels get cut up and used as face cloths, old sheets become shopping bags…and so on.
    We find double or triple uses for everything.
    It is amazing how little you need when you stop thinking that your home needs to look like a designer showroom. Warm, cosy and comfortable should be good enough! And furniture should last, not be replaced with the latest season’s trends.

    Solar β˜€πŸ˜Ž, Wind πŸƒ, and Wave🌊 power can give our earth a respite 🌎 it just needs some reliable super storage medium to be developed and we can all be self sufficient. πŸ’Ÿ

    • Preach on Colette. I concur. When we are cooking just for the two of us, we can eat for days after the first meal. I think it was Sandra Lee who said always make rice on Sunday night and you can eat several meals off it. Thanks for sharing. Keith

  6. Note to Readers: The city of Copenhagen has a goal to be a net zero carbon city. New buildings have solar panel sidings, some of greenway roofs, and 62% of commuters bike to work. Interesting note, they do not require bike helmets, as they found more women will ride without a helmet than if one is required.

  7. Thanks to some great work by the Snake Rive Alliance, residents in SW Idaho have been invited to take advantage of negotiated prices for rooftop solar installations. Solarize the Valley has been met with great enthusiasm, which is heartening. Of course, at the same time the governor and Idaho Power are trying wiggle out of net-metering agreements. I looked into the program for my house, but even with the discount, the price was completely out of reach, especially given that my roof is no longer young. Perhaps solar tiles will be available and affordable when I replace the roof. Each person needs to do as much as is possible to reduce our impact on our collective home.

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