Project Drawdown: Working to Halt Climate Change
Despite extreme heat and flooding, Dr. Jonathan Foley says he’s more optimistic than ever.
The world is in a race between two very different futures, according to Project Drawdown’s executive director Dr. Jonathan Foley. The world will be a bleak one where we let climate change go unabated and the effects get worse and worse or one where we don’t let climate change go unabated and we build a better and more equitable world.
“I’ve been working on climate change issues in one way or another for about 30 years now and I’ve never been more optimistic about our chances,” Foley said in a recent webinar of the organization’s science-based plan to address climate change. “Because new technologies, new policies, new movements, new businesses, new markets, new everything is starting to grow and grow exponentially… I’m convinced that we can win this race if we really put our minds to it.”
It’s time to stop delaying and distracting
It’s a strong, positive message of the kind you don’t often hear from those working on the existential crisis that is climate change, and one that is welcome as heatwaves, flooding and fires ravage large swathes of the planet.
Project Drawdown wants people to know three things: There are real science-backed methods to halt climate change, it’s time to stop delaying and distracting each other and, maybe most importantly, not to give in to doom and despair about climate change. There is still hope.
Founded by environmentalist, entrepreneur, author and activist Paul Hawken and activist Amanda Joy Ravenhill in 2014, Project Drawdown’s mission is to help the world reach “drawdown” — the point in time where levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to decline. The organization’s approach is to tackle the difficult task of determining what would really work to address climate change most efficiently and realistically.
Some solutions may surprise you, others the world just isn’t doing fast enough
Instead of pushing hype, Project Drawdown works with hundreds of scholars, students, scientists, researchers and activists to map, measure and model substantive solutions that can reverse global warming as quickly and as safely as possible. These are proven, workable solutions that can reduce emissions, support nature “sinks” for storing carbon, and improve society by centering equality for all.
Solutions are chosen using criteria including whether the solutions are currently available, growing in scale, financially viable and able to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations. They must also have a net positive effect and sufficient data to assess their potential. To come to its climate solution recommendations, Project Drawdown’s research fellows review scientific literature and simulation models, which are then reviewed by external experts in the field and refined as needed. If the proposed solution still meets inclusion criteria, it becomes part of Project Drawdown’s solutions library.
Drawdown Roadmap: Science Framework to Accelerate Climate Solutions, Dr. Jonathan Foley speaking at TEDxBoston (January 2023). One of the keys to avoiding climate catastrophe is to rapidly invest significant capital in climate solutions through private investment, philanthropy and government funding. Philanthropists, impact investors, and venture capitalists are now investing over $150 billion per year in new climate solutions and ventures. The world’s governments are also starting to step up, investing even more in climate solutions. And this funding will likely accelerate, snowballing into significant action. This presents us with a huge opportunity today.
The solutions library cuts across sectors including electricity, food, industry, transportation, buildings, etc. to determine where society should focus its attention. For a jolt of the positive, rather than climate doom, log into Drawdown’s top 100 list — arranged for both 2C and 1.5C of warming scenarios — to see what rates as the most impactful. The solutions library cuts across sectors including electricity, food, industry, transportation, buildings, etc. to determine where society should focus its attention.
Some of the solutions, like landfill methane capture, dynamic glass and improved aquaculture, may surprise you. Others like conservation agriculture, EVs and insulation are things we all know are needed but the world still isn’t doing fast enough to achieve the emissions reductions we require.
‘The solutions we need are already here”
Project Drawdown experts say direct emissions cuts should account for approximately 87% of global efforts while indirect emissions cuts (7%) and carbon removal (6%) should account for the rest. This stands in stark contrast to the rhetoric of fossil fuel companies touting technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
At July’s TEDx event in Detroit, Foley said as a society, we must prioritize immediate actions with cumulative benefits such as stopping deforestation and cutting methane leaks as our first priority. Next, we must focus on those actions that cut carbon emissions rather than high-tech solutions. Third, society must prioritize geographical hotspots with an outsized effect on climate change, such as the Amazon rainforest or high-emission factories. Lastly, the best place to spend money is on solutions that benefit people’s well-being, promote food security and increase access to clean water and sanitation.
In his recent Drawdown update, Foley ran counter to “doomism,” or the feeling that nothing can be done. With climate anxiety increasing and a recent survey of about 10,000 young people found more than half of them were “very worried” or “extremely worried” about climate change, Foley’s Drawdown update was strongly positive about the action we can take and that there is hope for our ability to move quickly to climate solutions.
“There’s an opportunity for us to do this,” Foley said. “We need to shift the conversation and we need a new message. That message could be that the world is beautiful, but it needs help to stay that way. The solutions we need are already here. By working together, we can create a better future.”
Article by Rebekah Moan is a freelance journalist, editor, content writer and ghostwriter with a focus on science and health.
Article reprinted with Permission as part of GreenMoney’s ongoing collaboration with Climate and Capital Media.