‘Every-time we make a purchase, we vote for the world we want.’ That message remains on a postcard above my desk. No one will argue against a world without poverty, with habitats intact, clean rivers and oceans, and stability in our economies and climate. But apart from world peace, the least understood of these issues is by far is global warming – the true elephant in the room.
Enter Paul Hawken, an energetic American environmentalist, who wants to know what we all need to do to arrest and reverse global warming. With no inventory to guide the world, he has embarked on a project to map, measure and model the most substantive solutions to global warming that already exist. The goal is to reach that point in time when concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere begin to decline year-on-year, preferably before 2050.
In 2013, a frustrated Hawken approached his network of greenhouse gas experts. This led to a coalition of 200 Drawdown advisors, comprising geologists, engineers, agriculturalists, climatologists, biologists, economists, financiers, architects, companies and NGOs. Research into energy, food, land use, transport, buildings and cities, women’s education and materials began, with the aim to assess the most suitable existing solutions to climate change.
So what are they? At the end of this 240-page report is a summary of 80, ranked by the total CO2-EQ (Equivalent) reduction in gigatons. Here I would have lost a bet. At the bottom with 0.20 gigatons is micro-wind energy, while refrigeration materials top the list at 89.74 gigatons. The next nine are: wind turbines (offshore), reducing food waste, plant-rich diets, tropical forests, educating girls, family planning, solar farms, silvopasture and then rooftop solar as number ten. Two of my favourite solutions, planting forests and harnessing tidal energy, are 15 and 29 respectively. So that’s another bet lost.
Drawdown is addictive. For each solution there is a short review supported by great photos and informatics. Take refrigeration. We are reminded that refrigerants continue to cause planetary trouble leading to a new treaty. Ultimately, 197 nations have adopted the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, an agreement to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 2028. HFCs are largely innocuous to the ozone layer but are one of the most potent greenhouse gases known to humankind. Hence they take pole position. Which should give you pause to think when next buying a new fridge or air conditioner.
As Prince Charles writes in the foreword: ‘The solutions put forward in Drawdown reaffirm compelling truths that for some inexplicable reason have not yet been taken forward effectively.’ I agree and hope political and business leaders in Westminster and the City have the opportunity to study the findings of this four-year survey and use their influence to help reverse global warming. The findings of Hawken’s work make compelling reading. With the Drawdown plan as a reference, we are better informed to vote for a sustainable tomorrow through the purchases and actions we make today.