“Drawdown” — The Definitive Guide To Combating Climate Change

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This post about the book Drawdown was first published on Gas2.

Drawdown is a compendium of every idea known to humanity at the present time that can slow or reverse the devastation of climate change. The Paris climate change protocols set out the lofty goals agreed to by all of the world’s governments except two in December of 2015. Drawdown is the nuts and bolts guide to implementing those goals.

Maps, Measures, & Models

Drawdown cover and air conditioner useEdited by Paul Hawken, the book “maps, measures, models, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming. For each solution, we describe its history, the carbon impact it provides, the relative cost and savings, the path to adoption, and how it works. The goal of the research that informs Drawdown is to determine if we can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within thirty years. All solutions modeled are already in place, well understood, analyzed based on peer-reviewed science, and are expanding around the world.”

At 240 pages in length, this review cannot delve into each nook and cranny of the environmental toolkit proposed by the authors. Suffice to say, if you are interested in how humans can address climate change in an effective way, Drawdown is a must-read book.

Every aspect of every idea is explored in detail. The recommendations are peer reviewed. The science behind each one is extensively footnoted so anyone who wants to can go to the source. What I found most remarkable about the book begins on page 222 — Summary Of Solutions By Overall Ranking.

Drawdown Surprises

We here at CleanTechnica, we focus heavily on the electrification of the transportation sector. That is critically important, of course, but would you care to guess what the one area is that we as a people have total control over and that has the potential to keep more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than making every car and truck on the planet run on electricity?

#1 is something we have touched on here only briefly — refrigerant management. Read more about it on page 164. The authors estimate that this one area could keep nearly 90 gigatons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. Electric cars? About 4 gigatons.

Here are the other 9 items on the Top 10 list and their carbon reduction potential:

  • Wind Turbines (Onshore) — 84.60 gigatons
  • Reduced Food Waste — 70.53 gigatons
  • Plant-rich diet — 66.11 gigatons
  • Tropical Forests — 61.23 gigatons
  • Educating Girls — 59.60 gigatons
  • Family Planning — 59.60 gigatons
  • Solar Farms — 36.90 gigatons
  • Silvopasture — 31.19 gigatons
  • Rooftop Solar — 24.60 gigatons

There are 80 items on the list. Total cost if all were fully implemented? $27.4 trillion. That’s a lot of cash, right? However will we pay for all that? With savings, people — or deferred costs. The authors estimated total economic savings at just under $74 trillion.

Deferred Gratification

The trick, of course, is that the costs come up front. The savings often come later. Human beings seem genetically incapable of making hard choices today that will have extraordinary benefits later. Deferred gratification could be the death knell for the capitalist model prevalent in most countries today. Pie-in-the-sky projections about future savings are discounted. Either they are treated as irrelevant or derided as #FakeNews.

The world operates on what I like to call the Wimpy Theory. Wimpy was a character in Popeye cartoons (some of you may be old enough to remember watching cartoons on television on Saturday mornings). Wimpy had one line that he used all the time. It went like this: “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a cheeseburger today.” It’s the “kick the can down the road” theory of global management and it will kill us all if we don’t stop — all except the lucky few who can escape to Mars aboard Elon Musk’s magic carpet.

Empowerment Of Women

We have recently written some articles on refrigeration. We have also touched on educating girls and the empowerment of women. Each of those areas makes the Top 10 list in Drawdown. Electric cars are #49. Combined, educating girls and empowering women are rated as saving more carbon dioxide emissions than any other element in the hierarchy of suggestions for combating climate change compiled by the editors.

And yet, the US government, spurred on by the hatred and bigotry of the so-called Religious Right (which is neither, by the way), has reimposed the so-called “global gag rule” that prohibits the spending of $1 to assist women in other countries from having access to family planning services. Here at home, the US Congress is howling like a pack of jackals in search of ways to defund Planned Parenthood.

Changes In Attitude Needed

Want to make an impact in the fight to limit the ravages of climate change? Buying an electric car and putting solar panels on your roof is laudable. But advocating for women’s rights and access to adequate health care should be your first priority. What Drawdown makes abundantly clear is that putting shackles on women to satisfy some cultural notions of male privilege or the ravings of so-called religious leaders like Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham is a death warrant for the earth.

It’s easy to throw platitudes around and advocate for our favorite fix for global warming. Drawdown shows us that fixing our attitudes about each other will be more important in the long run than all of Elon Musk’s astonishing inventions, all the solar panels, and all the Gigafactories in the world. It’s shocking to realize electric cars will eliminate only 4% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere in coming years compared to the combination of educating and empowering women.

Shocking it may be, but as Mark Twain once said: “It’s not what you don’t know that kills you, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t true.”

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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