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  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.

 

 

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Climate of Hope

One of the positives of the US President pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord is it has galvanized the many who see the need to act to save our planet. Coupling the US exit with the President placing climate change deniers and fossil fuel supporters in key cabinet roles, he has placed the US government at the kids table, while the adults talk about solving the world’s problems.

Fortunately, even the President’s actions cannot stop the momentum as a tipping point on renewable energy and other efforts have been reached. As reported in the book “Climate of Hope,” by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Executive Director of the Sierra Club Carl Pope, cities, businesses and citizens have been leading the way. This is important as cities are significant contributors to climate change and can therefore make a huge dent in ameliorating its effect. And, they are sharing their successes formally and informally.

Some of these efforts include:

– Restoring and renovating older buildings into green buildings. Bloomberg touts the renovation of the 1931 built Empire State as a key example.

– Building new structures with an even greener footprint. In India they deploy white rooftops to reflect away the sun to minimize cooling costs, e.g,

– Building more pedestrian areas which provide safer and eco-friendly access to shops, restaurants and businesses. These car free zones actually are part of a solution to reroute traffic to reduce carbon polluting stoppage.

– Building with buffers to allow nature to do its jobs to absorb the pounding of the ocean, since,  so many large cities are coastal cities with some below sea level. We should use nature to provide defenses that stand the test of time.

– Developing master traffic plans embracing car sharing, ride sharing, bike sharing, pedestrian pathways, electric vehicles from buses to taxis, and the elegant use of mass transit based on capital needs and restrictions. Bloomberg is big on measuring things, so installing GPS in New York taxis allowed them to measure success and make modifications to their plans as executed.

– Planting more carbon saving trees in cities and other areas, as well as using other plants such as mangroves in coastal areas as they suck carbon out of the air.

– Conserving food and reducing wastage. We waste huge amounts of food, both before and after it is cooked. Imperfect fruits and vegetables go straight to the dumps unless concentrated efforts prevent it and guide distribution to other users. Buying local saves on transportation costs and emissions, as well.

– Challenging manufacturers for efficient production and distribution. For example, a significant amount of wood goes to pallets that are tossed after one use. Look to more durable pallets that can be reused. Plus, the US does an excellent job of distributing products by rail and can do even better, as the rest of the world improves their efforts. These transmodal distribution centers that marry the efforts of ships, planes, trains and trucks provide huge efficiences and enhance trade.

– Dissuading the building of new coal plants. Active efforts have reduced coal from over 53% market share in 1990 to 30% market share of energy in 2016. Market forces are reducing this further as natural gas became cheaper and renewable energy cost fell to become more on par with coal. If new coal plants must be built, do it in concert with retiring older, less efficient plants.

– Making investment funds available to pay for upfront costs for renewable energy in countries that have fewer capital funding sources. India could do even more with available funding, especially as they electrify more of the country.

The great news is these things are happening. And, they are being shared. Please read this book. It is brief and optimistic. Also, watch the soon to be released sequel to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” Then spread the news about what is happening.

To be frank, these actions are positive and smart irrespective of one’s stance on climate change. And, a final note from Bloomberg is the millennials are paying attention. They want to work in places that are doing their part to fight climate change. Think about that as you plan.

Thursday needs a song and a few other thoughts

Off the top of my head, I am having a hard time thinking of a song with Thursday in the title or chorus. As I write this, I can remember a few songs for the other days of the week, with Wednesday being the hardest one to recall. So, with a special shout out to Thursday, here are a few odds and ends.

I mentioned in a comment earlier this week that Tesla is on target for rolling out 250,000 of its new affordable electric car. The car sells for US$35,000, is fun to drive and can go 215 miles on a charge. It should be noted that Elon Musk’s Tesla is one of the leading edge innovators on advanced battery storage.

I read yesterday in Reuters that Geely Volvo will only produce electric and hybrid cars after 2019. Let that statement sink in a little. Volvo will not produce combustible engine cars after 2019. I want you to think about that as the President wants to increase fossil fuel production. Apparently, Geely Volvo sees a different future.

At the same time these articles appeared, Scott Pruitt, who heads the EPA decided to spend our tax money in delving further into the climate change is a hoax theory. This is after the EPA removed various research links to papers and work on climate science from its website at Pruitt’s order. This alternative research flies in the face of peer reviewed science that questions the veracity of findings. Apparently “making America great again” means to throw away our advantage and let the world pass us by.

Finally, just to further this point, ice floes off of Antarctica are melting at a faster pace than expected. Now, we should note that when floating ice melts, it does not by itself contribute to sea level rise. But, these ice floes protect the land ice and, once gone, the land ice will melt at a faster pace and that will impact sea level rise.

So, Messers. Trump and Pruitt, are you quite sure we want to leave the Paris Climate Change Accord, focus on climate change denial and invest more heavily in fossil fuels? Yes, this is about the environment, but is also about jobs. The jobs are growing much faster in renewable energy and related industries.

Go science!

My niece coined a marvelous phrase in response to her finding out my three children also attended the March for Science on Earth Day. She said, “Go science!”

I applaud her enthusiasm as it is needed to countervent the poor stewardship of scientific responsibility being conducted out of the White House. Truth be told, while I have many concerns for the future, my greatest concern under this President has always been backtracking on climate change interventions and environmental progress. With appointments of Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA and Rick Perry as head of Energy, we do not have leaders that hold the environment as a key priority. And, with the deletion of science data and links from federal websites and proposed reduced funding on scientific research, we are punting on our prominent global role in scientific thought.

I still am having a hard time ascertaining what “make America great means.” But, one thing is for certain, dumbing down America is not the path to keep up us competitive and the world safe. With NASA and NOAA, we hold significant roles in climate change data and planning. With our passing the tipping point on renewable energy, we hold an important place in the movement to cleaner energy.

When I hear folks like the President counter with jobs, we should let the data speak. Renewable energy jobs are growing at double digit rates. To compete in an ever advancing technology world which is cutting far more jobs than international investment, not investing in science and cutting Visas for talented students hinders future job growth around advancement since jobs are created around the initial innovation.

Ignoring or belittling science is not the answer for a robust and growing country. The President said yesterday that science should not be ideological and open to debate. He is right. Deleting data and papers does not sound very open to me, nor is squelching debate on folks that disagree with your position.

Mr. President, if climate change is not real, then why are you deleting data?

Prominent climate scientists are concerned as research papers and supporting data are disappearing in the halls (and websites) of our US governmental agencies. It is to the point that several cited links in professional publications are no longer valid and the authors are scrambling to defend their work. As feared, there appears to be concerted efforts to delete climate change information off important government websites.

So, my question is simple, “Mr. President, if climate change is not real, then why are you deleting data that supports it exists and is man-influenced?” To me, this is a legitimate question to ask the President, Scott Pruitt, his EPA Secretary or Sean Spicer, his White House press agent. I would not let him escape without an answer. To me, this is telling. The President’s argument is so poor, it cannot stand up to scrutiny and he must destroy the evidence.

It is not dissimilar to when President George W. Bush’s White House Council for the Environment was having scientific papers rewritten or redacted if the words “climate change” or “global warming” appeared therein. It is akin to Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida who forbade their state officials from mentioning climate change or global warming in speeches or official papers. With Florida surrounded on three sides by sea water, that is not the best stewardship for his state not to mention country or planet.

Yet, there is another key facet. The US is a leader in climate change research with NASA, NOAA and EPA, to name a few agencies. We are not only harming our planet by stepping away and deleting papers and research, we are giving away a leadership position. This is not how you make America great again, for whatever that means, and is certainly not how you conduct yourself as a world leader.

So, Mr. President, what is the answer to my question?

 

An old shell on the beach

The Guardian reported today that an interesting shell has been discovered on the beach. A twenty-six minute documentary film produced by Shell Oil Company in 1991 has been rediscovered. This prescient film was made for educational purpose for students discussing the key concerns over climate change.

In the film, Shell scientists speak about sea level rise, flooding, drought and forest fires due to climate change. The reporters for The Guardian note the film is highly relevant today and was made twenty-five years ago.

The article also notes the lack of business ethics of Shell that led them to double down on fracking and off-shore drilling since that time. This is not dissimilar to the activities of Exxon-Mobil who is under investigation for securities fraud in misrepresenting the impact of climate change on their business to shareholders. Like Shell, Exxon-Mobil has been aware of their impact on climate change for quite awhile.

The past actions of these two fossil-fuel companies are extremely relevant. They both have known the concerns of climate change for many years. Their knowledge flies directly in the face of the arguments of climate change deniers. And, with respect to Exxon-Mobil, if it is proven that they misled shareholders, that is a crime whether it was intentional of not.

A key reason I left the Republican Party in 2006 is their failure to admit and speak to one of the greatest threats to our planet in climate change. The World Economic Forum cites the failure to address climate change as the second greatest risk (following our global water crisis) over the next ten years.  Doubling down on fossil fuels as advocated by our President is extremely poor stewardship.

We need to know the truth

The new leadership of our country has a modus operandi that the truth is only a commodity to be used when it works in their favor. I have witnessed in my consulting and managerial career that organizations take on the personality of its leader. Our leader is combative, thin-skinned and not too comfortable with the truth. Other leaders have lied, but we are talking about a whole different level of lying here as measured by fact checking organizations and just paying attention.

So, his PR people feel obligated to do the same, as once a lie is told and discovered, it either needs to be apologized for or padded with more lies. For this regime, the latter is the more common course of action. Cover a lie with more lies. The dilemma is it is a relentless effort to confuse people paying attention and sway those who do not.

But, this is not new, as our leader has been this way for most of his career. Who says so? His five biographers and ghost writer of his most popular book, “The Art of the Deal” say so. He has exploited many people during his career through bullying, misrepresentation, stiffing people, and many lawsuits, both threatened and real.

I have said before that I start out with the position of not believing a word the man and now his PR people say. The odds are in my favor that I am correct. Instead, I encourage folks to watch his actions, decisions and appointments.

For example, the so-called man of the people, has done the following, to name only a few of his actions, all of which are true.

  • He eliminated a planned mortgage premium reduction that would have helped millions of homeowners who did not put a large amount down on their house.
  • He is requesting the removal of a new requirement that would make all investment advisors act as fiduciaries, meaning they would operate in your best interests, which means that they would instead push transactions that may not be in your, but in their best interests.
  • He said Obamacare was in a death spiral, yet in a letter by the American Academy of Actuaries to Congress, they said that was not true. It should be noted Obamacare is helping twenty million plus Americans and, needs improvement, but is not a disaster, as he conveys.
  • He said Climate Change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs and has appointed several cabinet members and advisors who are perpetuating climate change denial in the face of overwhelming and convincing numbers of climate or environmental scientists. He is censoring climate change science by his departments which is a sure sign of not having faith in his own argument. It was reported by Bill McKibben in The Guardian, rural areas will be heavily impacted by not addressing climate change and not moving to renewable energy.
  • He introduced a travel ban that will do little to help with terrorism and actually will do the opposite. The terrorists are already here, but what is little known, he reduced funding on terrorism to address the 1,000 plus domestic terrorists groups that are tracked here. This coupled with ostracizing Muslims here and abroad, makes us less safe, as we should welcome all of our citizens and afford them the same rights and respect as others.

All of the above have an impact on the people who voted for him, as well as the rest of us, and not in a good way. It would be nice if these actions are highlighted, as  we need the truth. Otherwise, our complex problems will not get solved and we will have to address them in the future.