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‘Drawdown’ offers advice on how individuals can reverse global warming

  • Nancy Hazard

  • Hazard Nancy—Hazard Nancy



Monday, February 26, 2018

I would like to thank Walter Cudnohufsky and Deb Andrew for their Nov. 22 My Turn in the Recorder urging people to watch a YouTube film, “Breakthrough in Renewable Energy,” which Greening Greenfield and the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice showed in October.

Greening Greenfield is a “collective learning organization,” and as such, we showed the film to share information and to encourage others to talk about how to “solve” what many argue is the greatest threat humanity faces – climate change, which is caused by global warming.

While Cudnohufsky and Andrew were critical of the film, I appreciate that they raised questions about the environmental impact of solar and wind. I’d like to thank Pat Hynes and Bob Armstrong (Dec. 19 My Turn), who responded to Walt and Deb’s criticism of renewable energy technologies with data showing that the environmental impact of making solar panels is much lower than Cudnohufsky and Andrew claimed. I’d also like to thank Bill Gran and John Boss for the information they share often in the Recorder about the urgent need for action.

Here is new resource I’d like to put on the table, which I was thrilled to discover, and has been on the NYT Best Seller list for several months. “Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming” edited by Paul Hawken, is an easy to read coffee table book that ranks 100 solutions. The solutions are global, and include the education of women and girls, energy, food production, land use, housing, and transportation.

What I love most about the book are the numbers behind the rankings. Hawken invited university professors and students around the world to research and assess 1) how much each effort could reduce greenhouse gas emissions; 2) what it would cost to do it; and 3) how much money would be saved or lost. They then calculated the net savings or cost. They also assessed consequences of the action – is it a no-regrets solution? Or are there outcomes we might regret later?

Here is an example: Solution Number 9, silvopasture. African farmers commonly believe that trees don’t belong in desertified grazing lands. However, some farmers have found that planting trees improves the grass, the health of their animals, and their income. The trees and healthier grass also take carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and build soil. So, how much CO2 could this strategy pull out of the atmosphere? What would it cost a farmer to plant trees? And how much additional income would that generate? These three numbers show up on the top of the page on silvoculture.

Another example: Solution Number 1, Refrigerants. We thought we solved this problem in the 1980s when nations world signed on to the Montreal protocol to phase out chemicals destroying the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Unfortunately, we now know that many of the new refrigerants cause global warming, and are 1000-9000 times more potent than CO2! The good news is that last year, 170 countries passed an addendum to the Montreal protocol how to phase out these damaging chemicals starting in 2019.

While the ranking of the solutions is important, Paul Hawken points out that “Almost all of the solutions compiled and analyzed in “Drawdown” 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.” Therefore, although the solutions are ranked, we should do them all when we can.

For example, if I want to purchase a new heating system for my home, in the book I find that an air-source-heat-pump is Number 42 on their list – so this would be my Number 1 choice for a new heating system. It is ranked this way because it is very energy efficient, and it is powered by electricity, not fossil fuels, and the electricity can be produced renewably.

I was also happy to see that building new homes to be zero-net-energy is on the list. All new homes should be built this way because we cannot afford to add a new energy burden to our planet, and these homes generate as much energy as they use.

One more favorite – family planning and educating women and girls are ranked 6 and 7. While Hawken points out that they cannot monetize a human right, the benefits are irrefutable.

Pick up the book, look for a proven solution that sparks your creative energy and take action!

And Let’s keep talking! Watch “Breakthrough in Renewable Energy” on YouTube. Check out the book and drawdown.org, and share your thoughts about what we should do to address this global crisis. As an energy geek, I’m advocating for “electrifying everything that uses energy and moving toward 100% renewable energy” – what about you?

As Paul Hawken points out, the need to drawdown greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere “is not a liberal agenda, nor is it a conservative one. This is a human agenda.” Let’s do it!

Nancy Hazard is the retired director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, based in Greenfield, and a member of Greening Greenfield and FCCPR’s Climate Crisis Task Force.