Everyone here at Virgin Unite is incredibly excited about the recent launch of Drawdown – the brand new climate action book that maps, measures, models, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming.
Close friend of Virgin Unite, Paul Hawken, has edited together this comprehensive plan to reverse global warming – and so far the response has been mind-blowing. Drawdown has been described as one of the most powerful, empowering, world-changing documents, a profoundly important resource, and the most hopeful thing you’ll ever read about our ability to take on global warming.
It is currently ninth on the NYT Best Seller list (and climbing) and is 37th on the Amazon Best Seller list (the list that includes every book in the known universe!). So, with that in mind, we’re delighted to share with you Paul’s introduction to the book and encourage you to not only read Drawdown, but to spread the word with everyone you’ve ever met.
The genesis of Project Drawdown was curiosity, not fear. In 2001 I began asking experts in climate and environmental fields a question: Do we know what we need to do in order to arrest and reverse global warming? I thought they could provide a shopping list. I wanted to know the most effective solutions that were already in place, and the impact they could have if scaled. I also wanted to know the price tag. My contacts replied that such an inventory did not exist, but all agreed it would be a great checklist to have, though creating one was not within their individual expertise. After several years, I stopped asking because it was not within my expertise either.
Then came 2013. Several articles were published that were so alarming that one began to hear whispers of the unthinkable: It was game over. But was that true, or might it possibly be game on? Where did we actually stand? It was then that I decided to create Project Drawdown. In atmospheric terms drawdown is that point in time at which greenhouse gases peak and begin to decline on a year-to-year basis. I decided that the goal of the project would be to identify, measure, and model one hundred substantive solutions to determine how much we could accomplish within three decades towards that end.
The subtitle of this book – the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming – may sound a bit brash. We have chosen that description because no detailed plan to reverse warming has been proposed. There have been agreements and proposals on how to slow, cap, and arrest emissions, and there are international commitments to prevent global temperature increases from exceeding two degrees centigrade over preindustrial levels.
One hundred and ninety-five nations have made extraordinary progress in coming together to acknowledge that we have a momentous civilizational crisis on our earthly doorstep and have created national plans of action. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has completed the most significant scientific study in the history of humankind, and continues to refine the science, expand the research, and extend our grasp of one of the most complex systems imaginable. However, there is, as yet, no road map that goes beyond slowing or stopping emissions.
We see global warming not as an inevitability but as an invitation to build, innovate, and effect change.
To be clear, our organization did not create or devise a plan. We do not have that capability or self-appointed mandate. In conducting our research, we found a plan, a blueprint that already exists in the world in the form of humanity’s collective wisdom, made manifest in applied, hands-on practices and technologies that are commonly available, economically viable, and scientifically valid. Individual farmers, communities, cities, companies, and governments have shown that they care about this planet, its people, and its places. Engaged citizens the world over are doing something extraordinary. This is their story. In order for Project Drawdown to be credible, a coalition of researchers and scientists needed to be at its foundation. We had a tiny budget and oversized ambitions, so we sent out appeals inviting students and scholars from around the world to become research fellows. We were inundated with responses from some of the finest women and men in science and public policy.
Today, the Drawdown Fellows comprise seventy individuals from twenty-two countries. Forty per cent are women, nearly half have PhDs, and others have at least one advanced degree. They have extensive academic and professional experience at some of the world’s most respected institutions.
Together we gathered comprehensive lists of climate solutions and winnowed them down to those that had the greatest potential to reduce emissions or sequester carbon from the atmosphere. We then compiled literature reviews and devised detailed climate and financial models for each of the solutions. The analyses informing this book were then put through a three-stage process including review by outside experts who evaluated the inputs, sources, and calculations. We brought together a 120- person Advisory Board, a prominent and diverse community of geologists, engineers, agronomists, politicians, writers, climatologists, biologists, botanists, economists, financial analysts, architects, and activists who reviewed and validated the text.
Almost all of the solutions compiled and analyzed here lead to regenerative economic outcomes that create security, produce jobs, improve health, save money, facilitate mobility, eliminate hunger, prevent pollution, restore soil, clean rivers, and more. That these are substantive solutions does not mean that they are all the best ones. There are a small handful of entries in this book whose spillover effects are clearly detrimental to human and planetary health, and we try to make that clear in our descriptions. The overwhelming majority, however, are no-regrets solutions, initiatives we would want to achieve regardless of their ultimate impact on emissions and climate, as they are practices that benefit society and the environment in multiple ways. The final section of the main part of Drawdown is called “Coming Attractions” and features twenty solutions that are nascent or on the horizon. Some may succeed, while others may fail. Notwithstanding, they provide a demonstration of the ingenuity and gumption that committed individuals have brought to address climate change. Additionally, you will find essays from prominent journalists, writers, and scientists – narratives, histories, and vignettes – that offer a rich and varied context to the specifics of the book.
We remain a learning organization. Our role is to collect information, organize it in ways that are helpful, distribute it to any and all, and provide the means for anyone to add, amend, correct, and extend the information you find here and on the drawdown.org website. Technical reports and expanded model results are available there. Any model that projects out thirty years is going to be highly speculative. However, we believe the numbers are approximately right and welcome your comments and input. Unquestionably, distress signals are flashing throughout nature and society, from drought, sea level rise, and unrelenting increases in temperatures to expanded refugee crises, conflict, and dislocation. This is not the whole story. We have endeavoured in Drawdown to show that many people are staunchly and unwaveringly on the case. Although carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion and land use have a two-century head start on these solutions, we will take those odds. The buildup of greenhouse gases we experience today occurred in the absence of human understanding; our ancestors were innocent of the damage they were doing.
That can tempt us to believe that global warming is something that is happening to us – that we are victims of a fate that was determined by actions that precede us. If we change the preposition, and consider that global warming is happening for us – an atmospheric transformation that inspires us to change and reimagine everything we make and do – we begin to live in a different world. We take 100 percent responsibility and stop blaming others. We see global warming not as an inevitability but as an invitation to build, innovate, and effect change, a pathway that awakens creativity, compassion, and genius. This is not a liberal agenda, nor is it a conservative one. This is the human agenda.
– Paul Hawken