1 Big Opportunity & 4 Things You Can Do
– Project Drawdown
By Frank Schulmeister, Vice President, and co-founder of Energy Sciences
Is it possible to look at the climate crisis as an opportunity? This is what Project Drawdown is asking us to do – to see climate change as an opportunity for technological innovation, economic growth, and social progress. Yet, as individuals looking at our current global climate situation, the sheer scale can be overwhelming.
I first heard of Project Drawdown about four years ago. It is a non-profit “that seeks to help the world reach ‘drawdown’ – the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline.” (www.drawdown.org)
Since its founding in 2014, Project Drawdown has brought together the latest research, analyzed the current state of climate change, and reviewed existing and emerging technologies. They have evaluated individual, technological, economic, government, and business opportunities and identified real-world ways to stop and reverse global warming “with solutions that exist today.”
Since the 2017 publication of the New York Times bestseller Drawdown, Project Drawdown has become the world’s leading resource for climate solutions. With an emphasis on “resource and solutions,” Project Drawdown has put together resources everyone can use to understand the nature of the climate situation and the global, regional, and individual steps we can take to reach and move beyond the drawdown point quickly.
It turns out that everything we do that affects climate fits into just three targets for action: Sources, Sinks, and Society.
- Sources: put greenhouse gases INTO the atmosphere
- Sinks: take greenhouse gases OUT of the atmosphere
- Society: creates and perpetuates sources and disrupts or supports sinks
To reach Drawdown, we need to eliminate sources, help sinks, and improve social structures. As we address these three targets, we will create economic growth, improve the planet’s health, and make the world a better place to live for everyone.
The need to eliminate the sources of climate change seems obvious, though again, potentially overwhelming. According to Project Drawdown they all fit into six categories. Here they are, along with the percentage of greenhouse gasses they contribute to the atmosphere.
Electricity production: about 25%
Food agriculture & Land Use: about 24%
Industry: about 21%
Transportation: about 14%
Buildings: about 6%
Other Energy Related Emissions: about 10%
Project Drawdown presents multiple solutions for decreasing emissions from each category, explaining the cost, timeframe, economic effect, practical path, benefits, and drawbacks. You can find more details on Project Drawdown’s website.
Things that take greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere are called “sinks.” Currently, around 59% of greenhouse gasses stay in the atmosphere, while sinks remove about 41%: 24% by land sinks & plants, and the ocean absorbs around 17%.
Sinks can’t keep up with the sources, so the atmosphere holds an ever-increasing amount of greenhouse gasses. Assisting the natural cycle of capturing and sequestering carbon while reducing our emissions will speed up the process and get us to Drawdown faster. For those of you who are space buffs, astronomers, or science-fiction fans, think of it as terraforming right here on terra – using science fact instead of science fiction.
Illustrating the sources and sinks together looks like this:
Project Drawdown has put together information and pathways to assist and enhance natural sinks as well as technology for creating “engineered sinks.” There are many ways to encourage and expand sinks available on the Project Drawdown website.
The Drawdown Review (2020) states, “Many solutions can be wisely designed and employed to meet near-term needs…while advancing the long-term aim of reaching Drawdown…. Other initiatives, designed primarily to ensure rights and foster equality, can also have cascading benefits to climate change.”
Climate-friendly technology and enhancing sinks can lead to social benefits like job creation and storm protection for coastlines. Similarly, social equality and advances in healthcare, education, and access to resources can also benefit the climate.
“Climate and social systems are profoundly connected, and those connections open up solutions that are often overlooked.” Find out more about Project Drawdown’s solutions for society and climate.
4 Things You Can Do
I’m convinced the more we know about our interaction with and impact upon climate, the more we will do the right things to make sure that impact is a positive one. Project Drawdown is an excellent source for climate information, and the links below are a great place to start.
Climate Solutions 101: an online video course covering the basics
The Drawdown Review: a PDF overview
Drawdown Insights: articles and news related to the project
Affect change at home
Of course, doing what you can at home to save energy and reduce emissions is important. Drawdown Insights has many resources for impactful climate actions for households and individuals.
Promote change at work
Climate Solutions at Work is a recent publication from Project Drawdown designed to help employees discover ways to “accelerate action in the workplace and where to begin.” And, even if your work is not in agriculture, you may find Farming Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis worth a read.
Support change in society
A good place to start investigating social equity in relation to climate change would be the Health and Education section of the Project Drawdown website.
We can and must do many things to address and reverse human-induced climate change, and I think Project Drawdown will play an important part. I hope I have inspired you to investigate further!