BOOK REVIEW

by Nancy Truher
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
Edited by Paul Hawken, 2017

image011.pngYears ago when the author asked around, seeking a plan to counteract global warming-- the most effective solutions and likely price tags-- he realized there was no such "shopping list".  By 2013 that situation had not changed, so he decided to create Project Drawdown.  "Drawdown" is the point in time when greenhouse gases peak and begin to decline.  Subtitling the book "The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed" sounds extreme, but really, no detailed plan to reverse warming had been proposed.  What is in the book is not exactly a plan, but a summary of humanity's collective wisdom as evidenced in currently available practices and technologies.

A coalition of researchers and scientists-- 70 individuals from 22 countries-- became research fellows for Project Drawdown. Climate solutions were gathered that had the greatest potential to reduce emissions or sequester carbon.  Most are no-regrets solutions, desirable even aside from their climate change benefits.

A great deal of work then went into calculating likely outcomes, by 2050, of implementation of each possible solution, including quantity of reduced carbon dioxide, costs and net savings, and effectiveness ranking among the other selected solutions.  An advisory board of 120 experts then reviewed and validated the text; an attempt was made to make it understandable to people from all backgrounds and points of view.

Suggested plan elements total 100, in categories of Energy, Food, Women and Girls, Buildings and Cities, Land Use, Transport, Materials, and Coming Attractions.  Examples range from micro-grids and mass transit to composting, bamboo, and bike infrastructure.  All except the "Coming Attractions" had to meet stringent criteria: to be currently well entrenched and with significant information about performance and cost.  The "Coming Attractions" section previews a possible world to come.

The likelihood and timing of actual drawdown could not be forecast by this method; the effects of many variables are not sufficiently known.  Some results were surprising.  High on the list of effective strategies is Education of Girls: girls educated through secondary school have fewer children in adulthood.  Refrigerant Management comes out very high on the list (who knew?).  And Reduced Food Waste and Plant-Rich Diet are in the top 5.

This book can be used to identify how you can make a difference.  Individual responsibility can include how we manage our homes, how we transport ourselves, what we eat, and what we purchase.  But there are many things that individuals can't do.  What they can do is to become a movement.  Every solution in the book is the result of groups of people forming new alliances.  Project Drawdown will be going forward, working on how climate solutions fit into specific national economies and create jobs.

Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, author, and activist.  He founded several companies, including the first food company in the U.S. that relied solely on sustainable agricultural methods.  Hawken also consults with corporations and governments on economic development, industrial ecology, and environmental policy.  Currently he is the Executive Director of Project Drawdown, which works toward the drawdown of greenhouse gases to reduce climate change.  This book, Drawdown, is a culmination of this effort.  Hawken lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.