With all the Coronavirus news hogging the headlines, it would be easy to forget about the looming disaster of climate change – even though there are links between the two. But a new report states that we have all the solutions – 76 of them – we need to avoid catastrophic warming, right now. And they are easier to implement than deniers might care to admit, and far more cost-effective than doing nothing.
A new report has been published by Project Drawdown, a non-profit organisation which aims to guide us all towards a future where the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to decline – hence the “drawdown” title. The report is a comprehensive analysis of the solutions to the climate crisis currently available, based on the work of scientists and researchers around the world, across many sectors. The main message of the report is that we must start extracting fossil fuel emissions, such as CO2 and methane, from the atmosphere as well as stopping spewing them into it.
“Drawdown” is a critical turning point for life on Earth, and we must strive to reach it quickly, safely and equitable,” states the report. “The current path we are on is beyond dangerous, and it’s easy to be paralyzed by that perilousness. Yet possibility remains to change it.” We have already lost an entire decade to inaction, and recently have received a glimpse of some very frightening consequences, such as the devastating loss of wildlife from Australia’s unprecedented summer of fires and the melting polar ice caps. The urgency of the situation – and the solutions Project Download offer – are very clear.
While the cost of implementing the changes they recommend are huge – up to $26.2 trillion, the plan would allow us to achieve peak carbon dioxide control by as early as the mid-2040s. And more importantly, the savings in avoiding climate damage could be as high as $144 trillion.
The report groups the solutions by sector, and many are already familiar to us:
- Food waste, agriculture, land rehabilitation
- Building efficiency
The review outlines three key areas: reducing emissions sources, protecting and increasing the natural systems that cycle these chemicals, and how to achieve these goals while improving society at the same time. It of course calls for rapid changes in how we generate electricity, with nearly a third of the solutions they suggest aiming to increase efficiency in our energy use, and another third on how to replace fossil fuels. Controversially, the report maintains a role for nuclear power in their efforts to secure a carbon-free future. But some recommendations are less contentious, such as switching to LED lighting and battery storage power, and would create immediate savings.
The report also highlights the importance of protecting ecosystems and changing agricultural practices – yet world leaders continue to allow the destruction of these ecosystems to continue. Our current commitments for mitigating climate change fall far short of what is required, and many of their recommendations would be “politically unrealistic” in the current political climate. But without question, no matter what any politician, global conglomerate or industry lobbyist might say, the need for drastic and immediate action is essential.
And unlike other reports, Project Drawdown also recognises the need to reduce food waste, as well as other social elements such as providing women with better education and access to healthcare, empowering them to have smaller families.
But all the solutions the report recommends must be implemented in parallel to succeed, and if the lead is not going to come from governments, then perhaps business leaders have the power to encourage these changes. There are already signs that large corporations are taking up this mantle, such as BP, but there remains a long way to go to get everyone on board. But no matter how many obstacles stand in our way, to protect our planet’s future change must happen.