The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
Editor: Paul Hawken
This is the Greenzine‘s featured book for the second quarter of 2019. It’s amazing and encouraging that it made its way onto the New York Times bestseller listIt is an exhaustive and inspiring compendium of strategies and technologies for building a low- and non- emissions economy.
[The “fillers” in this issue, dispersed among the articles and ads, all come from Drawdown.]
Drawdown lists the various approaches for reducing greenhouse gases in order of effectiveness. The first ten are the following: refrigeration, onshore wind turbines, reduced food waste, plant-rich diet, tropical forests, educating girls, family planning, solar farms, silvopasture, and rooftop solar.
We have the knowledge. Let’s muster the political will and get to work!!
Wind power has been harnessed since 500-900 A.D. in Persia. The Dutch were famous for their windmills and in the first half of the 20th century, windmills dotted the rural landscape of Prairie farms. The cheap fossil fuels of mid-century put wind power into decline. It’s a question of energy returned on energy invested (EROEI). Fracking has opened new venues for oil, but done environmental damage without reducing greenhouse gases one bit.Drawdown, p. 2-3
Alternative energy sources are the way of the future, if there is to be a future for humanity. Denmark now covers 40% of its energy requirements with wind. Combining wind with solar, connecting wind generation centres with shuttle grids, and establishing wind farms away from the migration routes of birds and bats, eliminates the usual objections to their presence. Their widespread use could reduce greenhouse bases by an equivalent of 84.6 gigatons of CO2.
There are innovative carbon-sequestering grazing practices which are the happy exception to the rule. However15% of annual GHG production can be attributed to raising livestock in the usual manner. Overconsumption of animal protein is unhealthy for humans. If meat were regarded as a treat and a luxury, instead of as a staple of our diets, there would be less economic incentive for industrialized meat production and less pressure on water resources.
Current emissions could be reduced by 70% if the population changed to a vegan diet by 63% if all went vegetarian. Standing up to climate change might be as simple as changing what is on your plate. If 50% of the world’s population limited their calorie intake to 2500 calories per day and reduced their meat consumption at least 26.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide GHG equivalent could be avoided. If less land were given over to grazing, e.g. through deforestation, and additional 39.3 gigatons could be saved.Drawdown, p. 39-40
Girls’ education has a dramatic effect on global warming. Women who spend more years at school have fewer and healthier children. South Korea is a country whose educational policy has proven it. A woman with no years of schooling will have four to five more children than a girl who completes a standard 12-13 year education. By 2050 this could mean 843 million fewer persons on an already overcrowded planet.
Fewer educated women are married off against their will, a social justice effect. They have a lower incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Their gardens are more productive. They engage in their own economic activity. They are more equipped to cope with changing circumstances related to climate change and can adapt traditional knowledge to new conditions. One economic study from 2010 states that investment in girls’ education is a highly cost-effective option for carbon emissions abatement. All-in-all, providing girls with adequate schooling could result by 2050 in a GHG reduction of 59.6 gigatons.Drawdown, p. 80-82
Tropical forest loss alone, often due to intentional deforestation for agriculture, is responsible for 16- 19% of yearly greenhouse gas emissions cause by human activity. Conscious forest restoration can reverse this trend. An area which in sum makes up more than the area of South America, 2 billion hectares or 4.9 billion acres, is ripe for such action. In 2011 the Bonn Challenge set the goal of restoring 150 million hectares (370 million acres) by 2030. The New York Declaration of 2014 added to this and re- set the target to 350 million hectares (865 million acres)Should these projects prove successful33 gigatons of CO2 would be removed from the atmosphere. The median time for the 90% restoration of tropical forests is 66 years.Drawdown, p. 114-116
Refrigerants, such as CFC’s and HCFC’s have been being phased out since the Montreal Protocol of 1987. Thirty years later the ozone layer is beginning to heal. However, huge volumes of these substances remain in circulation. The primary replacement chemicals, HFC’s, do not do ozone damage; however their capacity to warm the atmosphere is one- to nine-thousand times greater than that of carbon dioxide. The Kigali Agreement of 2016 requires the phasing out of HFC’s, 2019-2024.
In the meantime, they will persist in refrigerators and condensing units. It’s predicted that 700 more air conditioners will be installed by 2030. For these, other chemicals, such as propane and ammonia, could be used. The destruction and reuse of the constituent chemicals derived from HFC’s is a costly technical process, but mandatory. Food transport and storage and the cooling of large, mainframe computers and servers will continue to rely on refrigeration. Managing it effectively could lead to a worldwide reduction of the equivalent of 89.73 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.Drawdown, p. 164-165