Paul Hawken's "Drawdown" project  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

Dave Roberts at Vox has an interview with Paul Hawken about his book on the "Drawdown" project to assess the effectiveness of carbon emission reduction options - A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising..

Hawken is a legend in environmental circles. Since the early 1980s, he has been starting green businesses, writing books on ecological commerce (President Bill Clinton called Hawken’s Natural Capitalism one of the five most important books in the world), consulting with businesses and governments, speaking to civic groups, and collecting honorary doctorates (six so far).

A few years ago, he set out to pull together the careful coverage of solutions that had so long been lacking. With the help of a little funding, he and a team of several dozen research fellows set out to “map, measure, and model” the 100 most substantive solutions to climate change, using only peer-reviewed research.

The result, released last month, is called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.

Unlike most popular books on climate change, it is not a polemic or a collection of anecdotes and exhortations. In fact, with the exception of a few thoughtful essays scattered throughout, it’s basically a reference book: a list of solutions, ranked by potential carbon impact, each with cost estimates and a short description. A set of scenarios show the cumulative potential.

It is fascinating, a powerful reminder of how narrow a set of solutions dominates the public’s attention. Alternatives range from farmland irrigation to heat pumps to ride-sharing.

The number one solution, in terms of potential impact? A combination of educating girls and family planning, which together could reduce 120 gigatons of CO2-equivalent by 2050 — more than on- and offshore wind power combined (99 GT).

Also sitting atop the list, with an impact that dwarfs any single energy source: refrigerant management. (Don’t hear much about that, do you? Here’s a great Brad Plumer piece on it.)

Both reduced food waste and plant-rich diets, on their own, beat solar farms and rooftop solar combined.

(Important note: The above comparisons are true in Drawdown’s central, “probable” scenario. There are also more ambitious scenarios, in which each solution is pushed to its full potential. In the “optimum” scenario, onshore wind rises to crush all competitors, reducing 139 GT. All scenarios use only existing, commercialized technologies, so they should be considered conservative. All the solutions, data, and references are available at drawdown.org.)

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