Why Drawdown Is Such an Important Book
This is part of a series on climate change / global warming and its solutions
It’s easy to get despondent at the mere thought of climate change or global warming. It seems such a huge problem to tackle.
When I wrote about solutions to climate change in terms of energy, I said that answer is simple – we have to stop burning fossil fuels.
Of course, there are many people who want to continue to make wealth out of fossil fuels. As a result, there is huge public misinformation. And a reluctance to change. That’s bad for the environment.
But a new book offers some very interesting options. Yes, we need to stop burning fossil fuels. Absolutely. But the book outlines ways to do that – and best of all:
- These solutions can be carried out by individuals, communities, building owners, companies and local governments.
- Many of the solutions can be undertaken with almost no new laws or policy
- They can be financed profitably by companies and capital markets.
- The solutions could be enough to prevent the dangerous climate tipping point of 2 degrees Celsius.
- They would cost LESS than – and produce more jobs – than “business as usual”.
Isn’t that amazing?
What Is The Book?
It’s called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. It’s edited by eco-business philosopher Paul Hawken and has contributions from experts in many fields.
Drawdown is the reversal of greenhouse gases that have built up in our atmosphere primarily from the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas.
And how do we reverse global warming? It’s all about the maths.
They’ve looked at all the methods we could use to slow climate change, and calculated their impact in terms of carbon reduction. If a solution couldn’t be measured, or couldn’t be scaled up worldwide, or was prohibitively expensive, it wasn’t included. The solutions had to be able to be achieved right now in the real world.
And when they did the calculations, even the experts were shocked.
What Did The Results Show That Were So Shocking?
Before the Drawdown project, Hawken said he assumed the main solutions would be to use solar and wind energy, eat less meat, drive electric cars and stop deforestation.
And yes, those are all important.
But only one option (wind energy), made it into the top 3 best solutions.
And the number 1 solution is, well, almost mundane.
Remember we used to have CFCs in fridges and air conditioners? They caused the hole in the ozone layer, and (amazingly) the whole world got together and agreed to stop using CFCs.
The trouble was, they were replaced by HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) – and they’re better for the ozone hole but lousy for climate change.
So, to have the greatest impact on global warming, we need to phase HFCs out of air conditioners, freezers and other equipment more quickly than already mandated by international agreement. Equipment manufacturers need to adopt new practices to make sure HFCs don’t escape, especially at end-of-life of the equipment.
That’s the solution with the biggest impact!
And it’s something that’s possible and measurable and relatively simple to implement.
Everyone Can Implement the Solutions in Drawdown
It’s one of the things that I love so much about this book. Saying that we need to stop burning fossil fuels, means the responsibility lies primarily with energy companies. Companies will of course put profit first in order to survive and grow. It would be very scary to think that our future depends on those boards of directors.
But Drawdown’s solutions are not only practical and measurable, but they can be implemented by everyone – from Boards of Directors right down to individuals.
What Are the Top 10 Drawdown Solutions?
It’s time to list the solutions which will have the biggest impact on climate change. And then I’ll look at them a little more detail.
- Coolants / Refrigeration
- Onshore Wind Power
- Reduce Food Waste
- Plant-rich diets
- Tropical Forest Protection
- Educating girls
- Family Planning
- Utility-scale Solar
- Rooftop Solar
Drawdown Solution #2 – Wind Energy
The cost of wind energy is dropping every day while its performance increases. In some parts of the world, wind is already cheaper to produce than coal-generated electricity—and it has no fuel costs and no pollution. It may soon be the least expensive source of electricity.
Onshore wind farms have small footprints (typically using no more than 1% of the land they are on), so grazing, farming, recreation, or conservation can happen at the same time as power generation. In addition, it takes less than a year to build an entire wind farm so return on investment is quick and we get results sooner. (Compare this with a nuclear plant which takes at least 10 years and costs a lot more).
Of course, there’s a problem when the wind doesn’t blow. So we need more R&D investment in storage and transmission.
Drawdown Solution #3 – Reduce Food Waste
This is something that everyone, everywhere can get involved in.
Composting: Nearly half of the solid waste produced globally is organic or biodegradable. When it goes to landfills it emits methane which is a highly dangerous greenhouse gas. But when we compost organic waste – in our gardens or in big industrial operations – we keep the original water and nutrients and we store carbon. This means we reduce landfill, sequestrate carbon AND get free top-quality fertilizer!
Conservation Agriculture: This means not plowing (ploughing) fields. Water evaporates from plowed soil, and the dry soil is blown away and the carbon stored in it is released. A plowed field becomes nutrient-poor and so more chemical fertilizers are added….. When farmers seed directly into the soil, and leave residues on the soil after harvest, and employ crop rotation, the soil stays rich and keeps its carbon. Its also more resilient to extreme weather.
Food Waste: One-third of all food produced is not eaten. This wastes not just the food but also seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labour and money. And of course it generates greenhouse gases. We can do our part by shopping sensibly, using food before it spoils, and also buying “ugly fruit”
Drawdown Solution #4 – Plant-Based Diet
This is definitely one area where every single one of us has a part to play. Reducing the amount of meat you eat can make a significant difference to climate change. The Western meat-centric diet needs to change. You don’t have to go vegan – unless you want to of course! – but meat production generates one-fifth of global emissions. Eating meat just a couple of times a week instead of every day would be a big step in the right direction.
Plant-rich diets not only reduce emissions but also tend to be healthier, leading to lower rates of chronic disease. Drawdown estimates that a staggering $1 trillion could be saved each year in health-care costs and lost productivity.
Many people and businesses need to be involved because this is a major change which won’t necessarily be popular. There must be attractive, enticing plant-based options available everywhere – and government subsidies should be stopped so that the price of meat reflects its true cost.
Helping to slow climate change AND getting healthier – what’s not to love!
Drawdown Solution #5 – Afforestation
This means planting more trees – everywhere – to soak up carbon. We also need fewer single-species forests, and more diversity.
And we can help with that by stopping buying products that contain palm oil, as this oil is hugely destructive to natural rainforest.
Drawdown Solutions #6 & 7 – Educating Girls, Family Planning
This is something that’s very close to my heart. Having spent much of my adult life in various parts of Africa, I have seen first-hand what a difference education and equality can make – and it applies all over the world, not just in Africa.
Education is one of the most powerful solutions because it curbs population growth.
- have fewer and healthier children
- earn higher wages and contribute to economic growth
- are less likely to marry as children, or marry against their will
- have lower incidences of HIV/AIDS and malaria
- their agricultural plots are more productive and their families better nourished.
When agricultural plots produce well, there is less deforestation for additional ground, avoiding emissions.
If women smallholders get equal rights to land and resources, they will grow more food, feed their families better and gain more household income. When women earn more, they reinvest 90 percent of the money they make into education, health and nutrition for their families and communities, compared to 30 to 40 percent for men.
Educated women are more effective stewards of food, soil, trees, and water – very important for coping with climate change. Worldwide, boys get more education than girls. This needs government intervention.
Women also need access to voluntary, quality family planning – in both low- and high-income countries around the world (in the US for example, 45% of pregnancies are unintended). Family planning improves the health, welfare, and life expectancy of women and their children. It can also affect greenhouse gas emissions. It is NOT up to governments to force birth rates up or down. Women should be able to choose. When women’s needs are met, the planet benefits.
When you add up these 2 solutions — educating girls and family planning – they represent the most impactful tool for fighting climate change. And I find that wonderful!
The Other Drawdown Solutions
There are loads more solutions. I urge you to go to the project’s own site where you can read about all the innovative and interesting options available to us. There are far too many for me to discuss here.
But they’re all interesting, and written in a very accessible way.
There are so many things that EVERYONE – from big business down to individuals – can do to help slow climate change.
Yes, drastic action is needed. Yes, we all need to work together.
But it’s so wonderful to have a resource that tells us which actions will have the greatest impact. That’s really worthwhile, so we can concentrate and focus on the big impacts.
In my opinion, Drawdown shows us a plan for creating a future that is perhaps greater than anyone has imagined was possible.
Other interesting articles in this series:
- Is climate change real – or a hoax?
- Why climate denial is so much more attractive
- How we can have energy without worsening climate change
- What you can do about the everyday climate change denial that we don’t even notice
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- A useful video about those pesky food expiry dates
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