What is Project Drawdown?

This environmental nonprofit is leading the charge on evidence-based climate solutions. Learn more about how Project Drawdown’s research supports global climate efforts.

By Asiyah Choudry

January 31, 2022

wind turbines at sunset

In 2021, across the US, we felt the effects of the climate crisis firsthand. With wildfires and drought in the West, heatwaves in Oregon and Washington, and hurricane Ida in the South, the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent in our day-to-day lives. Now more than ever, we need equitable, sustainable, and cost-effective climate change solutions. That’s where Project Drawdown comes in. As a leading resource on global climate solutions, the organization aims to facilitate growing global efforts to tackle climate issues.

What does Project Drawdown do?

Project Drawdown is an environmental nonprofit founded in 2014 by environmental activist Paul Hawken. Drawdown refers to “the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline.” Alarmingly, despite global efforts like the Paris Agreement, global emissions are still rising. Through the identification and promotion of high-impact climate solutions, Project Drawdown makes it easier for individuals and organizations to identify how they can support the attainment of drawdown.

fossil fuels and carbon emissions

After identifying a gap in the global understanding of climate solutions, Hawken created a comprehensive, evidence-based collection of climate solutions in collaboration with a team of researchers. These efforts culminated in the publication of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reduce Global Warming in 2017. The book consists of 100 effective strategies for reducing global carbon emissions, which can also be found on the Project Drawdown website.

 

Project Drawdown is ongoing, and the organization continues to model data and research new technologies for addressing the climate crisis to provide the most current analysis.  In 2020, the organization published The Drawdown Review, building on the findings of the Drawdown book. One of the key findings of The Drawdown Review is that drawdown can be achieved by 2050 if we scale up climate solutions that already exist.

How can we achieve drawdown?

Project Drawdown identifies three categories of solutions for achieving global drawdown.

1. Reducing carbon emissions

This category of solutions involves the transition to net-zero emissions across all sectors, ranging from transportation to land use and agriculture. Over 130 countries, including the US, have implemented or are considering net-zero by 2050 targets. Project Drawdown’s solutions for reducing carbon emissions include electric vehicles, plant-based diets, and forest conservation.

electric vehicle charging

2. Supporting carbon sinks

Carbon sinks are reservoirs, which can be natural or manmade, that absorb more carbon than they emit. The ocean is one example of a natural carbon sink, absorbing 25% of carbon emissions from human activity on an annual basis. Climate solutions that support carbon sinks include wetland restoration and bamboo production.

3. Addressing inequality

Though it may not seem directly connected, educating girls, and improving access to healthcare services are a critical part of advancing global sustainability. Low-income communities are the most heavily impacted by climate change. Education and access to healthcare enable communities to build resilience.

stack of colorful books

Project Drawdown’s top climate solutions

If we hope to achieve drawdown by mid-century, existing climate solutions will need to be ramped up substantially. According to Project Drawdown’s research, these are the three most critical climate solutions we’ll need if we hope to limit global warming to 1.5˚C by 2100 (Drawdown Scenario 2).

1. Onshore wind turbines

Through the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy, this solution has the potential to reduce up to 147.72 tons of CO2. Currently, wind is the largest renewable electricity source in the US, accounting for 8.4% of generation at a utility-scale.

2. Utility-scale photovoltaics

This solution also displaces fossil fuel generation in favor of solar energy, with the potential to reduce up to 119.13 tons of CO2. Solar power has substantial room for growth in the US. In 2020, it accounted for only 3% of electricity generation and is expected to grow to 20% by 2050.

onshore wind turbines

3. Reduced food waste

Up to 40% of food is wasted in the US. Substantial amounts of land, energy, and water are involved in food production. Addressing food waste issues across the supply chain can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector and reduce the amount of wasted food in landfills.

 

However, in Drawdown Scenario 1 (2˚C of warming by 2100), the top climate solutions differ. While the above climate solutions still rank in the top ten, other solutions like refrigerant management, health and education, and food waste reduction are projected to contribute more  to reducing greenhouse gasses. Drawdown is not all about alternative energy. Localized climate action and individual efforts are an important part of addressing climate change.

maintaining forests worldwide

Invest in climate solutions

Project Drawdown is a great resource for evidence-based climate solutions that will achieve global drawdown. If you’re looking for ways to support climate action solutions like renewable energy, your investments and bank deposits are a great place to start.

Raise Green is an impact investing platform that allows you to invest in local climate action projects. You can also check out the climate-friendly ETFs, bonds funds, and mutual funds that we recommend as an easy first step.

Your choice of bank account is another way that you can put your deposits to work! Certified B Corp Banks are committed to supporting environmentally and socially responsible investments and are an alternative to larger banks that are heavily invested in fossil fuels.

 

For more information about Project Drawdown, visit their website.

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