It was 2017 when Project Drawdown first issued its comprehensive guide to reducing greenhouse gas emissions so average global temperatures don’t rise high enough to make our beautiful planet uninhabitable for humans. 3 years later, Project Drawdown updated its original plan to incorporate the lessons learned since its first report came out. The latest update from the Project Drawdown group adds 11 new ways to address the world’s climate crisis in a responsible manner.
The Power Of Planning
A popular expression says, “If you fail to plan, you have a plan to fail.” In other words, if you want to get someplace, you need a guide to help you get where you want to go. Everything begins with setting a goal. When we go on vacation, we don’t just get in the car and drive aimlessly about. First we pick a destination, like Poughkeepsie, Peoria, or Pocatello. That’s the goal. Then we make a plan for how to reach the goal — what route to take, what to pack, and where to stay along the way. That’s the plan. With a goal and a plan, everything in possible.
Project Drawdown has a goal — to keep the Earth from becoming so hot that humans can no longer survive. It also has made detailed plans for how to reach that goal in ways that are practical and affordable. It defines “drawdown” as the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline, thereby stopping catastrophic climate change. Its mission is to provide humanity with the solutions needed to reach drawdown quickly, safely, efficiently, and equitably.
“All solutions are based on an extensive analysis of the scientific literature and sophisticated modeling and share six key traits that set them apart from other sets of climate mitigation strategies,” Project Drawdown says. “They 1) are currently available, 2) are growing in scale, 3) are financially viable, 4) are able to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere, 5) have a net positive impact, and 6) are quantifiable under different scenarios.”
11 New Solutions
Here are the 11 new solutions put forward by the Project Drawdown team.
- Seaweed Farming — Seaweed farming is one of the most sustainable types of aquaculture. Expanding seaweed farming enhances carbon sequestration and boosts production of biomass that can be used for biofuel, bioplastic, livestock feed, and human consumption.
- Macroalgae Protection and Restoration — Macro-algae forests are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth. Protecting and restoring those habitats, enhances carbon sequestration in the deep sea.
- Improved Fisheries — Improved fisheries involves reforming and improving the management of wild-capture fisheries to reduce excess effort, overcapitalization, and overfishing. This can reduce fuel usage and rebuild fish populations.
- Improved Aquaculture — Aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing animal food sectors. Because some aquaculture systems are highly energy intensive, ensuring that part of the on-site energy consumption is based on renewable resources would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Seafloor Protection — Vast amounts of carbon stored in seafloor sediments risk release by bottom-trawling fishing. Bottom-trawling bans and establishment of Marine Protected Areas can protect this important carbon sink.
- Improved Cattle Feed — Optimizing cattle feeding strategies can lower the methane emissions produced within the ruminant digestive system. Nutrient-enriched diets of high-quality forages, additives, and supplements aim to improve animal health and productivity.
- Improved Manure Management — Livestock manure produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Advanced technologies and practices for managing manure can reduce the adverse climate impact of animal agriculture.
- Methane Leak Management — Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is emitted during the production and transport of oil and natural gas. Managing methane emissions can reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
- Recycled Metals — Metals are extracted from nonrenewable ores. Recycled metals capitalize on already extracted materials—making it possible to produce goods more efficiently, reduce the need to extract new resources, and cut down on energy and water use.
- Recycled Plastics — Recycling plastics requires less energy than producing new materials, saves landfill space, reduces environmental pollution, and decreases demand for fossil-fuel-based raw materials.
- Reduced Plastics — Plastic production has grown tremendously over the past century, mainly for short-term use. Reducing the amount of plastic used in nondurable goods can significantly reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and plastic waste.
Expense Vs. Investment
Keeping the Earth habitable is going to cost a lot of money. But not every dollar spent is wasted, as one former president with orange skin liked to claim. What if a dollar spent today results in 3 dollars tomorrow? That’s called an investment — a concept foreign to Republicans. In their world, the billions spent to build the interstate highway systems were a classic example of Big Government wasting taxpayer dollars. In fact, those highways led to an explosion of economic activity that helped make the US economy the envy of the world.
Building factories costs a lot of money, but they create jobs and wealth far in excess of their initial investment. What if spending money today could not only slow global heating but also create more economic opportunities for millions of people? What if the expense of saving our planet could actually be recovered many times over? The Project Drawdown team says that’s not only possible, but virtually guaranteed.
Its analysis is divided into two scenarios. The first presents plans to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2º C above pre-industrial levels. The second focuses on the more difficult goal of keeping global heating to less that 1.5º C. Here are the conclusions from the latest report.
- An initial investment of $15.6 trillion (Scenario 1) would avoid or sequester more than 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases between 2020 and 2050 and save nearly $98 trillion in total operating costs over the lifetime of the solution.
- Bumping the investment up to $23.6 trillion (Scenario 2) would avoid or sequester more than 1,600 gigatons of gases and save more than $140 trillion in lifetime costs.
Economists like to talk about “mulitplier effects.” If a dollar invested creates 3 dollars in return, the multiplier effect is 3. If that same dollar returns 1o dollars, the multiplier effect is 10. In the first scenario suggested by Project Drawdown, the multiplier effect is more than 6. In the second scenario, it is just slightly less than 6. If someone offered you a chance to increase your net worth by a factor of 6, most people would be ecstatic. Couple that rate of return with the ability to keep the Earth habitable for future humans and we have structured a situation where everyone wins.
“In sum, we confirmed that the practices and technologies implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will more than pay for themselves in lifetime savings,” the latest Project Drawdown report says. “In addition, many of the solutions have bonus benefits for reducing poverty, increasing equity, and protecting endangered animals and ecosystems. So solving the climate crisis is both a life-saving and money-saving move for future generations.”
That’s the power of setting a goal and making realistic plans to accomplish that goal. We desperately need leaders who embrace such thoughtful and practical solutions. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, make it a point to vote your conscience this year and every year. Remember, if the people will lead, their leaders will follow.
Be sure to check out the nearly 100 suggestions Project Drawdown has for taming the rise in global average temperatures. There’s something in there for everyone and every solution is backed by detailed, in-depth research. It’s the information you need to make rational, informed decisions when choosing your political leaders.
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