September 17, 2020

The Drawdown Project to Reverse Global Warming

By Dr. Elisa DiCaprio

To coincide with New York City's annual Climate Week event next week, we present Dr. Lisa DiCaprio's article on Project Drawdown. The project will kick off the week of events with, "Drawdown 2020: The Time Is Now." 

Project Drawdown comprises 100 existing solutions* for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reversing global warming.

I learned about Project Drawdown at a September 24, 2018 event at the New York Society for Ethical Culture that was produced by Climate Reality Leaders Elly Lessin, the Pachamama Alliance, and Monica Weiss, New York Society for Ethical Culture and 350NYC. Over 700 people attended the Drawdown event, which was part of Climate Week NYC 2018, and co-sponsored by the New York Society for Ethical Culture350NYC and the Pachamama Alliance.

Each Drawdown solution “reduces greenhouse gases by avoiding emissions and/or by sequestering carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.” Drawdown is defined as “that point in time when the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere begins to decline on a year-to-year basis.”

The Drawdown timeline correlates with the conclusions of the October 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C. The report compares climate change impacts at 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) versus 2°C (3.6°F) of global warming since the Industrial Revolution. Currently, average temperatures have increased by about 1°C (1.8°F). Limiting warming to 1.5°C will require reducing carbon emissions from human activities “by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.”

Project Drawdown is described on its website and in The New York Times best-selling book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming (Penguin 2017), edited by author and environmental activist Paul Hawken, the project founder. The lead writer for Drawdown is Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, the Vice-President of Communications and Engagement at Project Drawdown. Dr. Jonathan Foley is the project’s Executive Director.

To date, the Drawdown Coalition includes over 70 research fellows from six continents and 22 countries as well as more than 120 advisors.

Eighty existing solutions were selected based on five criteria, which are explained in Drawdown’s Frequently Asked Questions.

  • “Is the solution currently available and scaling?

  • Is it economically viable? In other words, is there a business case?

  • Does it have the potential to reduce GHGs in the atmosphere, either through avoided emissions or sequestration, by at least 50 million tons of greenhouse gasses over 30 years?

  • Are there any negative results, such as pollution, reduced food security, land conversion, etc.? And, if so, do the positive benefits outweigh the negatives?

  • Do we have sufficient data to be able to model these technologies at global scale?”

Drawdown, an ongoing project, also identifies 20 Coming Attractions that have the potential to meet these criteria in the future.

Project Drawdown provides an essential guide for advocacy by compiling and evaluating technically feasible solutions that relate to virtually all aspects of our natural and built environments.

This is a modified version of an article that appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of the Sierra Atlantic, the publication of the Atlantic (NYS) Sierra Club Chapter. For the original version, see the Sierra Club website.

Lisa DiCaprio is a Clinical Associate Professor of Social Sciences and the Associate Director of Curriculum in the Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies (DAUS). She is also the Conservation Chair of the Sierra Club NYC Group.  Dr. DiCaprio teaches two courses on sustainability, Green Design and the Future of Organizations and NYC: The Future Metropolis.

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