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Paul Hawken Presents a 100-Step Plan to Reverse Global Warming

Paul Hawken and the team at Project Drawdown have developed the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming, a feat which Hawken said was easy, because “no one had ever proposed a plan before.” Much of the previous work related to climate solutions has been dominated by beliefs, according to Hawken. The Project Drawdown team “found” the plan outlined in their upcoming Drawdown book by modeling 80 existing solutions to climate change and 20 coming attractions, which have been validated scientifically but still don’t have data behind them.

Hawken and company ranked these 100 solutions according to carbon reduction by 2050, either in terms of avoidance or sequestration. The top solution on its own is refrigerants, but, as Hawken demonstrates in the video above, if you combine “educating girls” and “family planning,” empowering girls and women is the number one solution.

Hakwen also talked about why food-based solutions are collectively—and perhaps counterintuitively—bigger than energy-based solutions. Food makes up eight of the top 20 solutions, while energy comprises only five. Hawken emphasized that there is “no such thing as a small solution” and stressed that these models are conservative rather than hubristic. “Any other criticism would undermine our credibility,” Hawken said. Project Drawdown will be publishing their data on their website, and they welcome people to test and challenge their conclusions. “Anyone is welcome to say we’re wrong,” Hakwen said, “but the data is robust—and conservative.” Solar power outgrew the most optimistic growth trajectories, and Hakwen believes that electric vehicles are following a similar path.

The tone of Hawken’s presentation was decidedly optimistic, even when an audience member raised concerns about the impact that our “tweeter-in-chief” might have on the fate of the world. “This is a global model and if anything what we’re seeing is a sunset effect on fossil fuels, not the rebirth of idiocy. And when the sun sets, it gets really bright, and then – boom – it’s dark.” He takes issue with the often inaccessible, frequently dualistic languages that surrounds climate change. “We have to stop using war metaphors,” says Hawken. The climate is not our enemy.

Hawken is confident that the solutions presented are part of an attainable future, not a pie-in-the-sky dream. “We have the math. We know how to solve the problem,” Hawken said.

For more on Hawken’s presentation, check out Crowdsourcing a Better Future: Paul Hakwen’s Drawdown in SmartUp.

  • Todd McKissick

    What seems to me to be missing here is the link between most of these. The authors recognize that educating women and girls are interdependent and make more change than individually, but they miss another, much larger, interconnection.

    By solving the energy shortfalls, those women will receive more energy at a lower cost. But it doesn’t end there. More food, including cattle, can be produced with less land. More transportation can both be avoided and supplied to end uses. More products can be created without necessitating deforestation.

    Virtually all the other problems can be nearly solved with cheaper, abundant energy. And while the ‘abundant’ part ‘can’ come from utility energy, the ‘cheaper’ part usually only comes from decentralized energy.

    The “how” to do that isn’t even listed here in its best forms. Implement a Living Smart Grid and then tap residential CSP with full CHP.