Project Drawdown is the ULTIMATE scientifically based Global Green New Deal.
Excerpts from The Drawdown Review:
About Project Drawdown®
“Since the 2017 publication of the New York Times bestseller, Drawdown, the organization has emerged as a leading resource for information and insight about climate solutions. We continue to develop that resource by conducting rigorous review and assessment of climate solutions,creating compelling and human communication across mediums, and partnering with efforts to accelerate climate solutions globally.”
10 Key Insights
Our first body of work in 2017 put a spotlight on a vast array of climate solutions, each with its own compelling story and possibility. As the saying goes, it can sometimes be a challenge to “see the forest for the trees,” and that’s certainly true with climate solutions.
Throughout this Review, we aim to illuminate what you might call the “groves” and “forests” beyond the individual trees, which are sometimes hiding in plain view. Here, we surface ten key insights to make essential messages of our work clear, direct, and easy for others to communicate.
Project Drawdown is a living effort and a learning organization. These insights will continue to deepen, refine, and expand as the work itself does.
We can reach Drawdown by mid-century if we scale the climate solutions already in hand. Drawdown is a bold goal but an absolutely necessary one,
given that global emissions are still rising each year—not declining as they need to. Our new analysis shows the world can reach Drawdown by mid-century, if we make the best use of all existing climate solutions. Certainly, more solutions are needed and emerging, but there is no reason—or time—to wait on innovation. Now is better than new, and society is well equipped to begin that transformation today. If we pursue climate solutions with purpose and determination, our analysis shows we could reach Drawdown as early as the mid-2040s—or not until the 2060s, depending on our level of ambition. (See more on scenarios below.)
Climate solutions are interconnected as a system, and we need all of them. The notion of “silver bullets” has persistent appeal—“what’s the one big thing we can do?”—but they simply don’t exist for complex problems such as the climate crisis. A whole system of solutions is required. Many climate solutions combine and cooperate, leveraging or enabling others for the greatest impact. For example, efficient buildings make distributed, renewable electricity generation more viable. The food system requires interventions on both supply and demand sides—e.g., better farming practices and reduced meat consumption. For greatest benefit, electric vehicles need 100% clean power on which to run. We need many, interconnected solutions for a multi-faceted, systemic challenge.
Beyond addressing greenhouse gases, climate solutions can have “co-benefits” that contribute to a better, more equitable world. Climate solutions are rarely just climate solutions. For example, those that curb air pollution are also health solutions. Others that protect and restore ecosystems are also biodiversity solutions. Many can create jobs, foster resilience to climate impacts such as storms and droughts, and bring other environmental benefits such as safeguarding water resources. Climate solutions can advance social and economic equity if utilized wisely and well—with attention to who decides, who benefits, and how any drawbacks are mitigated. The how really matters, as the same practice or technology can have very different outcomes depending on implementation. It takes intention and care to move solutions forward in ways that heal rather than deepen systemic injustices.
The financial case for climate solutions is crystal clear, as savings significantly outweigh costs. Unfounded arguments about the economic inviability of climate action persist but are patently false. Project Drawdown analyzes the financial implications of solutions: How much money will a given solution cost, or save, when compared with the status quo technology or practice it replaces? That financial analysis looks at the initial implementation of a solution, as well as the use or operation of that solution over time. Overall, net operational savings exceed net implementation costs four to five times over: an initial cost of $23.4–26.2 trillion versus $96.4–143.5 trillion saved.If we consider the monetary value of co-benefits (e.g., healthcare savings from reduced air pollution) and avoided climate damages (e.g., agricultural losses), the financial case becomes even stronger. So long as we ensure a just transition for those in sunsetting or transitioning industries, such as coal, it’s clear that there is no economic rationale for stalling on climate solutions—and every reason
to forge boldly ahead.
The majority of climate solutions reduce or replace the use of fossil fuels. We must accelerate these solutions, while actively stopping the use of coal, oil, and gas. The use of fossil fuels for electricity, transport, and heat currently drives roughly two-thirds of heat-trapping emissions worldwide.2 Of the 76 solutions included in this Review, roughly 30% reduce the use of fossil fuels by enhancing efficiency and almost 30% replace them entirely with alternatives. Together, they can deliver almost
two-thirds of the emissions reductions needed to reach Drawdown.
Alongside accelerating these vital solutions, such as solar and wind power, retrofitting buildings, and public transit, we must actively stop fossil fuel production and expansion—including ending billions of dollars in subsidies and financing and, ideally, directing those funds to climate solutions instead. Reaching Drawdown depends on concurrent “stop” and “start” paths of action. A similar stopstart dynamic exists within food, agriculture, and land use: ending harmful practices (e.g., deforestation) and advancing helpful ones (e.g., methods of regenerative agriculture)
We cannot reach Drawdown without simultaneously reducing emissions toward zero and supporting nature’s carbon sinks.
Imagine the atmosphere as a bathtub overflowing, as the water continues to run. The primary intervention is clear: turn off the tap of greenhouse gases by bringing emissions to zero. In addition to curbing the source of the problem, we can also open the drain somewhat. That’s where nature plays a vital role: absorbing and storing carbon through biological and chemical processes, effectively draining some of the excess out of the atmosphere. Human activities can support natural carbon sinks, and many ecosystem or agriculture-related climate solutions have the double benefit of reducing emissions and absorbing carbon simultaneously. It takes stemming all sources and supporting all sinks to reach Drawdown.
(See further exploration of sources and sinks below.)
Some of the most powerful climate solutions receive comparably little attention, reminding us to widen our lens.
Many climate solutions focus on reducing and eliminating fossil fuel emissions, but others are needed too. Among the top solutions assessed by Project Drawdown, we find some “eye-openers” that are on par with solutions that often get the spotlight, such as onshore wind turbines and utility-scale solar photovoltaics:
▶ Food waste reduction and plant-rich diets, which together curb demand, deforestation, and associated emissions;
▶ Preventing leaks and improving disposal of chemical refrigerants, which are potent greenhouse gases, the use of which is projected to grow significantly;
▶ Restoration of temperate and tropical forests, which are powerful, vast carbon sinks;
▶ Access to high-quality, voluntary reproductive healthcare and high-quality, inclusive education, the many ripple effects of which include climate benefits.
These results are a reminder to look beyond the obvious, to a broader suite of solutions, and beyond technology, to natural and social systems.
Accelerators are critical to move solutions forward at the scale, speed, and scope required.
It goes without saying: solutions do not scale themselves. We need means of removing barriers and accelerating their implementation and expansion. Key “accelerators” can create the conditions for solutions to move forward with greater speed and wider scope. Some, such as changing policy and shifting capital, are closer in and have more direct impacts; others, such as shaping culture and building political power, are further out and more indirect in their effect. Accelerators are heavily dependent on social and political contexts and work at different scales, from individuals to larger groups to entire nations. As with solutions, they intersect and interact; none are singularly effective, and we need them all. (See more on accelerators below.)
Footholds of agency exist at every level, for all individuals and institutions to participate in advancing climate solutions.
The climate crisis requires systemic, structural change across our global society and economy. The reality of intervening in a complex system is that no one can do it all, and we all have an opening to show up as problem-solvers and change-agents and contribute in significant ways—even when we feel small. The range of climate solutions illuminates diverse intervention points across individual, community, organizational, regional, national, and global scales.The necessary accelerators expand that array of action opportunities even more. It will take a whole ecosystem of activities and actors to create the transformation that’s required.
Immense commitment, collaboration, and ingenuity will be necessary to depart the perilous path we are on and realize the path that’s possible. But the mission is clear: make possibility reality.
In September 2019, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg testified before the U.S. Congress. “You must unite behind the science,” she urged. “You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never ever be an option.”3 In four short sentences, she articulated exactly the task and challenge at hand. Project Drawdown’s mission is to help the world reach Drawdown as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible. That could also be humanity’s mission in this pivotal moment for life on Earth. The current path we are on is beyond dangerous, and it’s easy to be paralyzed by that perilousness. Yet possibility remains to change it. Together, we can build a bridge from where we are today to the world we want for ourselves, for all of life, and, most importantly, for generations yet to come.