Project Drawdown Aims for Solutions to Climate Change

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Tuesday, October 11th, 2016
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Whilst Australian politicians once again debate the merits of renewable energy and challenges from extreme weather events, on the other side of the world, hundreds of graduate students, scientists, government agencies and a range of participating universities, are hard at work on those matters.

They are mapping and modeling how one hundred existing, substantive solutions, like renewable energy and energy efficiency measures, will need to scaled over the next three decades. These solutions will complement social solutions that require behavioural change like dietary choices and educating girls, and ecological solutions like restoring carbon in soils and plants by sequestering CO2.

To date, scientists have done an extraordinary job determining the impacts of what will happen if we don’t act to mitigate climate change. Now is the time to measure and calculate how we are responding so we can amplify that response.

Sadly, the climate “debate” today is similar to what it was a decade ago. On one hand, the science is robust and unequivocal. Those who grasp the science are increasingly concerned by forecasts. The alarm bells have activated a dedicated core of organizations and activists. On the other hand, because of disinformation, polls show that fewer people are interested in climate science than 10 years ago. The majority are confused or unsure of what to do. Thoughts about climate change understandably provoke feelings of fear, loss and threat.

In order to mobilize larger portions of the population into constructive action and voting, this needs to change. Showing the diverse and beneficial implications of climate-focused solutions is key to reversing apathy.

The technical, social and ecological solutions being modelled are all proven, the challenge however has been working out the carbon savings and financial accounting to determine how each solution plays out by country and or region, based on available energy resources, climate, economy and other factors — and how each is likely to morph over the next 30 years.  It’s an ambition task known as Project Drawdown.

Drawdown will outline 100 solutions than can reverse global warming when scaled globally. Unlike most technology modelling, technologies won’t be measured in isolation – they will be viewed as parts of the systems in which they operate.  For example when looking at LED bulbs, they will also need to consider solutions like dynamic skins and smart glass which actually reduce light load by 40 or 50 per cent. Each of these solutions has a history and measurements with metrics and numbers, so there’s no guess work.

drawdown

As the built environment is the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for almost 50 per cent of GHGs worldwide, there is a significant focus on the built environment. Some solutions include use of wood in buildings, cool roofs, districting heating and cooling, green roofs, LED lighting, water saving measures, HVAC efficiencies, retrofitting, retro commissioning, smart thermostats, and rooftop solar hot water.

The initiative is led by climate activists and sustainability entrepreneurs and educators Paul Hawkin and Amanda Joy Ravenhill. Frustrated by the increased divisive and toxic political environment in which so many countries now operate today, the pair wanted to deliver a selection of technologies that could really make a difference that individuals, business and or communities (including sub national governments) could deploy.

The idea of “drawdown” – actually reducing greenhouse gas concentrations so that global temperatures drop – for the most part hasn’t been part of the conversation. Most have focused on the seemingly pragmatic goal of stabilizing greenhouse gases at some level, expressed in parts per million (ppm) that would be tolerable — or at least not catastrophic, from economic, environmental and social perspectives.

Hawken thought differently.

“There’s no such thing as stabilization at 450 or 550 ppm,” he said. “That’s not stabilized. That’s volatile.”

He felt that the goal should be drawdown, which is a year-to-year reduction of carbon from the upper atmosphere, period.

Some of the brightest minds in the world are working on this initiative with a “no regrets” approach, so it should prompt actions. Regardless of their climate value, all innovations will have intrinsic benefits to communities and economies. They will all improve lives, create jobs, restore the environment, enhance security, generate resilience, and advance human health.

The list is pragmatic and inspiring at the same time. They have only counted what’s quantifiable today. Without any of the other exciting regenerative developments on the edge of implementation, they have hints that reaching drawdown (starting to absorb GHGs) is possible by 2045 and global cooling perhaps 20 years later.

So until then, get used to the lights going out – extreme climate events are now part of life.

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