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Drawdown: the Most Comprehensive Plan ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

Drawdown: the Most Comprehensive Plan ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming thumbnail

Drawdown was a major collaborative effort involving 70 research fellows from 40 countries. It’s not so much a cohesive plan as a list of partial solutions: 80 that are tested and in use at least somewhere in the world, and another 20 that are speculative. The book has a few essays but is primarily composed of descriptions of these possible solutions; each comes with estimates of its potential impact on climate, and a ranking (and a picture, naturally).

These numbers are speculative, of course. One of the things I found surprising was the estimates in a few cases of the potential of solutions—in particular, a back-to-back pair: using bicycles instead of motor vehicles in cities was estimated to increase from 5.5 percent of trips in 2014 to 7.5 percent by 2050. But green roofs and cool roofs (that is, roofs with turf on top and roofs with reflective metal that sends solar radiation back) are estimated to grow to 30 and 60 percent, respectively. That totals to 90 percent as the two are different approaches with no overlap. I can only think that people doing the bike chapter were much less optimistic than those coming up with numbers for the green roof piece.

The other issue with numbers is the question of double counting, of overlap. For example, it seemed to me that farmland restoration, regenerative agriculture, multistrata agroforestry, silvopasture, tree intercropping, managed grazing, pasture cropping, and intensive silvopasture are not really eight different schemes, but three. A problem with any assessment of climate change is assigning categories and avoiding overlap. For example, take a truck bringing corn to an ethanol plant—is that in the transportation sector, the agriculture sector, or the energy production sector? But the authors claim they “made sure to avoid” double counting; perhaps I misunderstood the differences between some of these things. Anyway, I don’t think the numbers are the important part of this effort.

I’m going to name three things I liked in this book, and one I disliked.

First, the inspirational bits, especially in the essays not devoted to a ranked scheme, were truly inspiring to me. Please understand that I am a cynical old pessimist, so this means they did a fine job on the vision and inspiration aspect. I’m not the kind that thinks “love” is a solution!

I also liked that the sections for nuclear power and biofuels called these “regrets solutions,” which we may have to use temporarily but in contrast with most of the solutions in the book, these have a major downside the authors recognized. What they called “waste to energy” was another one (capturing the energy from incineration of trash).

But my favorite part of this book was that it introduced me to several approaches of which I’d previously been unaware—and since I read quite a bit on this subject (notably on the site), this was a pleasant surprise.

Some examples: smart glass, which works like photogray eyeglasses, darkening when sunlight is brightest, thus reducing heating and air conditioning loads in buildings. That one’s already out there. Another thing already out there was the Kigali Protocol, a binding treaty to phase out the substitutes that replaced the CFCs and HCFCs phased out by the Montreal Protocol. The HFCs now commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning don’t hurt the ozone layer but are extremely potent greenhouse gases, so the safe disposal of them at the end of the life of these appliances is critical—so critical that this step was rated number one in importance, capable of reducing warming by nearly a full degree Fahrenheit! And I hadn’t even heard of it, or the treaty already in place to solve the problem.

In the speculative section at the end, there was this intriguing item: Repopulating the mammoth steppes. The argument is that repopulating the Arctic with herbivores will prevent the warming that could release horrendous amounts of frozen methane, because these animals survive by scratching off the snow to eat frozen grasses, and reducing the snow cover leaves the ground a few degrees colder. I did wonder about the exposed vegetation being darker than snow, but the theory includes the idea that herbivores keep the land in grass, rather than trees and shrubs which are also darker.

Then there is ocean farming—I initially reacted warily to this idea, thinking that supposed husbandry of yet another biome will just do more damage. But this concern was extensively addressed. They pointed out the difference between industrial monoculture and small, diverse farms, which is what they propose here. Another section talks about suspending grids 82 feet below the surface far offshore, to create coral and kelp forests which would be the base of ecosystems that produce edible seaweeds and fish while sequestering carbon…and could be hooked to pumps to bring up cold, nutrient-rich water from the deeps. Yet another section claims that feeding cows and other ruminants on seaweed, especially a particular red algae, causes them to thrive while drastically reducing their methane emissions (created by inefficient digestion). Some of this, while bold interference with marine nature, may actually restore ecosystems—and yes, it’s noted that there must be large marine parks where nature is untouched and wild.

The biggest negative for me was in the things the book didn’t mention or barely touched on—extremely important, if inconvenient realities. First, population: it was mentioned, but lightly and with an assessment that saw getting to “only” 9.7 billion humans in 2050 as the hoped-for outcome. Any approach besides providing birth control and educating girls was not to be countenanced. I don’t believe the Earth can support 9.7 billion humans sustainably, no matter how we live.

Similarly, while never directly addressed, it seems to be assumed that capitalism and economic growth will continue unchecked. But income and resource consumption are tightly linked—sure, many of the projects outlined in the book would allow greater efficiency, minimized impact. But there are limits, and as long as capitalism is our modus operandi, there will be the Jevon’s Effect. If only voluntary restraint can be countenanced, then the great savings attributed to most of the schemes in the book will only encourage more consumption.

Finally, there is the reality that instituting many of the plans would require government investment or regulation—but increasingly, the world’s governments are run by the elite for their own economic benefit. So how do we get there from here? Drawdown talks about the need to graduate from our current cultural focus on competition to move into a mode of cooperation, with each other and with the rest of nature. Very true—but is this enlightenment going to happen as a sudden sea change in the attitude of billions of individuals, against the opposition of the tiny minority who hold the power? People are very much influenced by media, which are owned and controlled by that elite—who seem to want nothing but the status quo.

Perhaps these choices were made in order to make the book appealing to a wide spectrum of people, including the elite. It repeatedly claims that solutions would actually save money. Or, perhaps the mandate the Drawdown team gave themselves was to lay out the possible solution—the technical solutions–to the complex problem of climate warming, and leave it to someone else to put the pieces together into a comprehensive, step-by-step plan. After which it’s up to all of us to apply increasing pressure on the “leaders” (through our consumer choices as well as voting, massing in the streets and other tactics) to take the first steps down that path toward the better world we could have if we succeed. To me it seems that the barriers to making the changes we so desperately need have never been in the realm of practical, technical possibilities. If the sea change in human attitudes envisioned in the inspirational pieces of this book happen, magically or otherwise, then the book will offer useful information on the practical means of making the change.

21 Comments on "Drawdown: the Most Comprehensive Plan ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming"

  1. Sissyfuss on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 8:27 am 

    The changes and solutions offered in the article are predicated on the assumption that humankind is capable of banding together into a wise and cooperative group that seeks for the betterment of all. We are short millennia of evolution for that possibility. In times of chaos and calamity it’s every man for himself til the new paradigm is established. We are on the verge of replacing our interesting times with horrific times. No amount of preparation is sufficient for the path we are on.

  2. Davy on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 8:33 am 

    How many of you at this moment are all solar? My laptop is running on solar now. My whole house is solar except high draw items but they are not in use now. Yesterday sucked for solar energy. I did not even bother to run my system. The point is I am trying. The point is also I have been blessed with the opportunity to run solar. I was blessed with the funds to invest in solar. Many of you out there can’t. I am not better than many of you who can’t. I am better than those who can and don’t in a sense that I am part of the solution and they are part of the problem. This book looks to be a great book and I may add it to my library. There are many things we all can do to change this world. Do something please.

    I have said this multiple times tech is part of the solution but not the solution. Real green attitudes and ways of life are the right solution but only a partial solution because we are in a predicament without fixes. We can make a difference and extend out decline but likely not fix it. Attitudes and behavior are critical. This means embracing localism, seasonality, intermittency, and less affluence. By embracing less affluence we are rejecting high energy consumerism and leisure. We are not rejecting materialism because many good products and tools are essential for a hybrid of the best of the old and new going forward. We are rejecting products that do not serve a long term. We ware instead embracing education and effort. We are trying to change bad attitudes with good ones. We should try this within existing traditions because people will be afraid to reject their past with a world so messed up like ours is currently. Our sustainable development should be doing less but feeling more. This means less high energy large footprint physical stimulation and more of the opposite. We should be educating poor women to have less kids. We have to understand population is half the problem. We also have to realize that we have to use the global economy to leave it. We will not be able to fund many great tech ideas with a destroyed economy. Capitalism is very fickle to change both destructive and constructive. Over the last many years both forms of change have worked because we were in an energy transition and a bountiful planet that could afford it. Going forward we have energy depletion and alternatives that are not as net energy robust. We have a planet in localized ecosystem failure. We have too many people with social fabric tearing in many locations. We have to be careful how quickly we embrace great technology and attitudes so we don’t destroy the economy and social fabric that is feeding and sheltering us. Yet, it is this very economy and the large population using this high output global economy that is killing the planet and eventually will spell our doom.

    The above understood then we need to be aware that no matter what tech and good attitudes are employed we are not going to arrest this trend of human and planetary decline. We can slow it down even fix some things but for the most part this is terminal. We need to do a lot and quickly so there needs to be wisdom along with science to monitor the results. We can’t do everything so we better make sure what we do is money well spent. We have to educate people to leave bad behavior behind. We need to quit promoting bad behavior in leisure and consumerism that just entrenches it systematically. Once you allow capitalism to allow bad behavior it then becomes economic bad behavior that affects economies of scale and finance. We need to educate people properly with the science and the real reasons we are in decline. Since much of this will not happen then you as an individual, small group, and small community you need to embrace your own way forward yielding to a world that is mostly uncontrollable. You need to do this with local culture and environmental idiosyncrasies. You can make a difference in your lives that can make a difference in the lives of those that are young and will face the worst of what is ahead.

  3. Dredd on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 11:30 am 

    Treating the effect rather than the cause is a fools errand.

    The cause is fossil fuel use.

    (Humble Oil-Qaeda).

  4. Dredd on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 11:33 am 

    Davy asked “How many of you at this moment are all solar?

    100% wind electric here.

    Congrats on your good efforts Davy!

  5. Davy on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 2:06 pm 

    “100% wind electric here.”

    Awesome. My next project is to add this to my solar system:

    “Bergey Excel 1 KW Wind Turbine Package”

  6. I AM THE MOB on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 3:22 pm 


    You can’t be 100 percent wind because the wind doesnt blow over 30 mph 24 hours a day..

    You are such a pathetic old loser..

    You and clogg have turned this board into science fiction and the 700 club..

  7. Davy on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 4:17 pm 

    “You can’t be 100 percent wind because the wind doesnt blow over 30 mph 24 hours a day..”

    Where did I say I need to be 100% wind? Maybe you made that up because you are the pathetic loser liar.

  8. Cloggie on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 4:28 pm 

    You can’t be 100 percent wind because the wind doesnt blow over 30 mph 24 hours a day..

    You are the best example that is very well possible to blow hot air 24/7 at 30 mph, you knucklehead.

  9. Sissyfuss on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 5:04 pm 

    Davy, unruly Mob reminds me of our old buddy Apneaman, albeit with a lot less accuracy and talent.

  10. Cloggie on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 5:25 pm 

    Davy, unruly Mob reminds me of our old buddy Apneaman, albeit with a lot less accuracy and talent.

    Ever entertained the idea that they could be the same?

    This was the moment apneakike left and millikike appeared on the scene:

    I already accused apneaman at the time of using CC as a cover to be able to incite a commie revolution.

    Now millimind does the same, using peak oil as a cover.

    Motivation: identity reset.

    They “both” have the same hero: Nafeez Ahmed.

  11. The faliousy of commence on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 7:45 pm 

    I guess a little hopium is okay for trying to maintain some sanity. Probably the ideas in this book will never be implemented. Maybe easier after the collapse.

  12. Chrome Mags on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 8:14 pm 

    I think the threads on this website prove sissyfuss’ point; “The changes and solutions offered in the article are predicated on the assumption that humankind is capable of banding together into a wise and cooperative group that seeks for the betterment of all. We are short millennia of evolution for that possibility.”

    People have egos and that pits them against one another to try and prove superiority and that tends to be our consciousness level, as discussions/arguments degrade into name calling and nothing much gets done. The war of words is still going on regarding global warming, barely inching into the forefront of global discussions on geo-engineering.

    I’m of the mind that predictions of crises will lead to crises, civilization will need to collapse, then as the phoenix rises centuries from now we can all then try to get along and reach a consensus of how best to conduct ourselves for the purposes of sustainable living. Maybe we’ll actually like each other a bit more.

  13. makati1 on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 8:58 pm 

    Chrome, you assume that there will still be humans alive centuries from now. I would bet a year’s income against that possibility. We have triggered too many self-perpetuating events in the ecosystem to prevent global warming and huge climate changes. We will either go by nukes in a fight over resources, or by the planet becoming hostile to any large life forms. We blew it centuries ago.

  14. Cloggie on Wed, 21st Nov 2018 11:14 pm 

    Look mobster, interview with Richard Spencers new girlfriend. She is not nearly as dumb as you look:

    Here btw is a picture of the mobsters “hottie”:

  15. Davy on Thu, 22nd Nov 2018 4:15 am 

    “Ever entertained the idea that they could be the same? This was the moment apneakike left and millikike appeared on the scene:”

    Neder, mob and ape man are night and day. Ape man was a west coast Canadian intellectual. He was an extreme anti-American. He was not an American extremist liberal either. He would not talk about being an antifa wannabee. He had long rants that were interesting and enlightening. We clashed until we reached a mutual agreement to ignore each other in most cases. MOB is noise. He posts the same shit daily and rarely with content and intellectual explanation. He is generally off topic and interested in self-promotion. He lies about his qualifications. Ape man was real. We didn’t get along from the start because he wanted me to hate myself as an American. I told him to shove it in his ass but I respected him because he was smart and witty. He was a worthy adversary. MOB is a sniveling kid that is clutter and noise for what otherwise could be an enlightening board.

  16. Dredd on Thu, 22nd Nov 2018 4:42 am 

    Happy Thanksgiving !

  17. Go Speed Racer on Thu, 22nd Nov 2018 7:30 am 

    Happy Thanksgiving dread,
    from the one and only GSR. Accept no substitutes!!
    remember this is our annual celebration of the Pilgrims.

    We celebrate that hundreds of years ago the very
    first pilgrims came to America they bought their
    very first curved flatscreen TV, and they watch the very first movie. We celebrate this historic event by
    eating pumpkin pie with lots of whipping creamexclamation

    Only 200 years after that, Ronald McDonald became the first American president.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Be sure to teach your kids this important history!

  18. Go Speed Racer on Thu, 22nd Nov 2018 7:33 am 

    There is a problem with this save the planet regimen.

    It requires me to stop driving the 57 Chevy to the
    hamburger stand, For a burger, fries and
    chocolate shake.

    We cannot accept such draconian measures.
    Let’s stick with business as usual.

  19. Cloggie on Thu, 22nd Nov 2018 8:43 am 

    Happy Thanksgiving dread,
    from the one and only GSR. Accept no substitutes!!
    remember this is our annual celebration of the Pilgrims.

    The Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America from exactly this location in Leiden, The Netherlands. I lived for years in one of the houses depicted on the right side:

    From my window I looked out on hotel Mayflower, slightly on the left from the picture above:

    My house was situated directly south of an arm of the river Rhine, see picture and was once the northern-most extension of the Roman empire, that ranged as far as southern Egypt. On the other side of the Rhine (where hotel Mayflower is still situated) was territory of Germanic tribes, in Britain aka Huns.

    Happy Thanksgiving from Holland!
    (even if it is not celebrated here)

  20. Free Speech Forum on Thu, 22nd Nov 2018 9:51 pm 

    The question should not be what is illegal. The question should be: “Is anything legal?”

    The question should not be what rights Americans have. The question should be: “Do Americans have any rights?”

  21. Go Speed Racer on Thu, 22nd Nov 2018 10:20 pm 

    Hi Clogster, I didn’t visit the Peak Oil site
    for awhile, trust U held down the fort while
    I was away.

    Hey let’s all go to Pittsburgh, I heard they
    set furniture on fire in the road, every time
    they win the football game.

    Also every time they lose the football game.

    Thx the pics of home sweet home.
    Hope the hordes of invading dark skinned
    foreigners are not getting U down.

    Recommend steal a page from Trump,
    When those invading hordes, are crossing
    your border, send in the military and show
    them the business end of an anti-tank barrel.

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