News  |  June 27, 2022

Project Drawdown updates world’s leading set of climate solutions—adding 11 new solutions for addressing the climate crisis

by Mary Hoff

insights-new-solutions-2022.jpg

Undersea kelp forests like this one off the coast of California are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth. Protecting and restoring these habitats enhances carbon sequestration in the deep sea.

iStock.com/fdastudillo

Five years ago Project Drawdown published a collection of “drawdown solutions,” technologies and practices that, if ambitiously implemented together, can achieve drawdown—the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline, thereby stopping catastrophic climate change. A newly released update of this landmark analysis adds 11 new solutions and confirms with even more clarity and conviction that humanity has the solutions needed to reach drawdown quickly, safely, efficiently, and equitably.

The update lays the groundwork for Project Drawdown’s next major effort: developing and helping to activate strategies for implementing climate solutions that also benefit human well-being, biodiversity, and more. Businesses, funders, organizations, and individuals are encouraged to use the updated solutions set as a resource for making wise choices as to how to direct their climate solutions efforts.

Currently Available, Readily Scalable

To assess the possibilities for putting the brakes on climate change, experts in fields from oceanography to mechanical engineering and artificial intelligence modeled the greenhouse gas and economic impacts of adopting currently available and readily scalable technologies and practices under two levels of adoption that roughly correspond to limiting warming to 2°C and 1.5°C, respectively. They updated the existing solutions by incorporating new population growth models and new data for 16 of the solutions (all 13 Transportation sector solutions, Family Planning and Education, Plant-Rich Diets, and Reduced Food Waste). They also added 11 new solutions assessing strategies for reducing greenhouse gases related to ocean resources, food production, methane management, and materials manufacturing and use. 

All solutions are based on an extensive analysis of the scientific literature and sophisticated modeling and share six key traits that set them apart from other sets of climate mitigation strategies. They 1) are currently available, 2) are growing in scale, 3) are financially viable, 4) are able to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere, 5) have a net positive impact, and 6) are quantifiable under different scenarios. 

New Solutions

The 11 new solutions are:

Seaweed Farming – Seaweed farming is one of the most sustainable types of aquaculture. Expanding seaweed farming enhances carbon sequestration and boosts production of biomass that can be used for biofuel, bioplastic, livestock feed, and human consumption.

Macroalgae Protection and Restoration – Macroalgae forests are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth. Protecting and restoring those habitats, enhances carbon sequestration in the deep sea. 

Improved Fisheries – Improved fisheries involves reforming and improving the management of wild-capture fisheries to reduce excess effort, overcapitalization, and overfishing. This can reduce fuel usage and rebuild fish populations. 

Improved Aquaculture – Aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing animal food sectors. Because some aquaculture systems are highly energy intensive, ensuring that part of the on-site energy consumption is based on renewable resources would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Seafloor Protection – Vast amounts of carbon stored in seafloor sediments risk release by bottom-trawling fishing. Bottom-trawling bans and establishment of Marine Protected Areas can protect this important carbon sink.

Improved Cattle Feed – Optimizing cattle feeding strategies can lower the methane emissions produced within the ruminant digestive system. Nutrient-enriched diets of high-quality forages, additives, and supplements aim to improve animal health and productivity.

Improved Manure Management – Livestock manure produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Advanced technologies and practices for managing manure can reduce the adverse climate impact of animal agriculture.

Methane Leak Management – Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is emitted during the production and transport of oil and natural gas. Managing methane emissions can reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Recycled Metals – Metals are extracted from nonrenewable ores. Recycled metals capitalize on already extracted materials—making it possible to produce goods more efficiently, reduce the need to extract new resources, and cut down on energy and water use. 

Recycled Plastics – Recycling plastics requires less energy than producing new materials, saves landfill space, reduces environmental pollution, and decreases demand for fossil-fuel-based raw materials.

Reduced Plastics – Plastic production has grown tremendously over the past century, mainly for short-term use. Reducing the amount of plastic used in nondurable goods can significantly reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and plastic waste.

Highlights

Among the highlights of the update:

  • An initial investment of US$15.6 trillion (Scenario 1) would avoid or sequester more than 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases between 2020 and 2050 and save nearly US$98 trillion in total operating costs over the lifetime of the solution. 
  • Bumping the investment up to US$23.6 trillion (Scenario 2) would avoid or sequester more than 1,600 gigatons of gases and save more than US$140 trillion in lifetime costs. 
  • Under Scenario 1, which aligns roughly with IPCC’s 2°C target, Food, Agriculture, and Land Use sector solutions have the greatest impact on greenhouse gases. Under Scenario 2, which aligns roughly with IPCC’s 1.5°C target, the Electricity sector jumps to the top for atmospheric greenhouse gas reductions. 
  • Updating the Family Planning and Education solution created changes across all solutions, since it replaces the previous projection of 2050 population with a lower number, creating a lower demand for the other solutions. Notably, nearly half (46 percent) of the impact of the lower population projection is attributable to more developed countries because of the higher per-capita contribution. The impact of education is hard to quantify because it affects many things besides reproductive choices (e.g., ability to implement other solutions).
  • In the Electricity and Buildings sectors, lower functional demand due to lower population projections means fewer emissions in the baseline (business as usual) scenario, which means it’s easier to achieve climate goals. 
  • Changes in the Transportation sector are mainly due to newer and better data. We’re seeing more potential for electrification, especially in freight and public transit. Small changes in adoption can result in big impacts due to the large number of passenger miles globally. 
  • There are lots of opportunities for improvement in the Industry sector. Small increases in adoption can make a big difference because of large volumes of materials. Shifting to low-emissions-intensity materials is the source of most of the gain. Some industries (e.g., steel) can show only modest gains in energy efficiency; the biggest opportunities are for switching to new materials instead. 
  • New data on emissions for 88 commodities made a big difference in the Food, Agriculture, and Land Use sector. Plant-Rich Diets and Reduced Food Waste are now at the top of the potential impact list in Scenario 1 and are right after Onshore Wind Turbines and Utility-Scale Solar Photovoltaics in Scenario 2. Even though population estimates declined, new diet and emissions factors more than made up for the savings. Potential reductions are likely even higher than what we’re seeing here.
  • Protecting intact coastal wetlands such as mangroves is the most effective solution in the Coastal and Ocean Sinks sector. Seaweed has high sequestration potential. Protection and restoration have many co-benefits. Fisheries improvements that increase fish stocks mean more fish die in the ocean and so more biomass is sequestered in the deep ocean.
  • Methane reduction is important because it can produce quick, measurable results critical for reaching net zero by 2050. Methane reduction provides big opportunities for greenhouse gas reductions at a relatively low cost. Eliminating leaks from the oil and gas production sector is cost-effective and simple. Landfill methane capture is a clear win.

In sum, we confirmed that the practices and technologies implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will more than pay for themselves in lifetime savings. In addition, many of the solutions have bonus benefits for reducing poverty, increasing equity, and protecting endangered animals and ecosystems. So solving the climate crisis is both a life-saving and money-saving move for future generations.

Research Team

Fellows and staff who played key roles in the updates include Chad Frischmann, Mamta Mehra, Mahmoud Abdelhamid, Zak Accuardi, Mohammad Ahmadi Achachlouei, Raihan Ahmed, Carolyn Alkire, Ryan F. Allard, Jimena Alvarez, Chirjiv Anand, Jay H. Arehart, Senorpe Asem-Hiablie, Jay Barlow, Kevin Bayuk, Renilde Becqué, Erika Boeing, Jvani Cabiness, Johnnie Chamberlin, Delton Chen, Wu Chen, Kristina Colbert, Leonardo Covis, Susan Miller Davis, Tala Daya, Priyanka DeSouza, Barbara Rodriguez Droguett, Stefan Gary, Jai Kumar Gaurav, Anna Goldstein, Miranda R. Gorman, João Pedro Gouveia, Alisha Graves, Martina Grecequet, Karan Gupta, Zhen Han, Zeke Hausfather, Yuill Herbert, Amanda Hong, Ariel Horowitz, Ryan Hottle, Troy Hottle, Sarah Eichler, David Jaber, Marzieh Jafary, Mel De Jager, Dattakiran Jagu, Emilia Jankowska, Heather Jones, Daniel Kane, Kapilnarula, Sumedha Malaviya, Urmila Maldvakar, Ashok Mangotra, Alison Mason, Mihir Mathur, David Mead, Aven Satre-Meloy, Phil Metz, Ruth Metzel, Alex Michelko, Ida Midzic, Karthik Mukkavilli, Sarah Myhre, Amrita Namasivayam, Kapil Narula, Rob Newell, Demetrios Papaioannou, Michelle Pedraza, Robin Pelc, Noorie Rajvanshi, George Randolph, Abby Rubinson, Adrien Salazar, Aven Satre-Meloy, Jon Schroeder, Celina Scott-Buechler, Christine Shearer, David Siap, Kelly Siman, Leena Tähkämö, Ernesto Valero Thomas, Eric Toensmeier, Shahaboddin Sean H. Toroghi, Melanie Valencia, Andrew Wade, Marilyn Waite, Ariani Wartenberg, Charlotte Wheeler, Christopher W. Wright, Liang Yang, Daphne Yin, Abdulmutalib Yussuff, and Kenneth Zame.

Other Resources

Two of the studies behind the new results have been released in peer-reviewed journals. Emilia Jankowska, Robin Pelc, Jimena Alvarez, Mamta Mehra, and Chad Frischmann published a report on the six new ocean-related solutions in PNAS in June. Miranda Gorman, David Dzombak, and Chad Frischmann published an article on the metals recycling solution in the September 2022 Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

In addition to releasing the new solutions and updating existing ones, Project Drawdown put its research models—which help quantify the potential size and economics of different climate solutions—into the public domain. This process is still in the early stages, and many pieces of software are still under development. Interested individuals can check out the ongoing work on Github, where Python and Excel versions of the models are being worked on, along with user interfaces, data management tools, and other software tools. 

Press Contacts

If you are a journalist and would like Project Drawdown updates and/or digital assets for editorial use, please contact press@drawdown.org.

More Insights

News  |  February 6, 2023
USPS trucks
Major businesses led by Etsy and eBay praise USPS’s shift to electric delivery fleet
A group of major corporations led by Etsy and eBay is praising the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for committing to exclusively purchase electric vehicles starting in 2026, in a letter coordinated by Drawdown Labs, Project Drawdown’s private-sector testing ground for accelerating the adoption of climate solutions quickly, safely and equitably. Etsy and eBay are among the largest e-commerce marketplaces in the country. The USPS is central to their business and to millions of small sellers who run their shops on these platforms.  The USPS is currently transitioning to an all-new fleet of 106,000 delivery vehicles. It announced in December that 62 percent of those purchases over the next five years will have all-electric powertrains and by 2026, 100 percent of newly purchased vehicles will be electric. The letter from Etsy and eBay also includes signatories Askov Finlayson, Avocado Green, Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, Dr. Bronner’s, A Good Company, Grove Collaborative, Patagonia, Peak Design, Seventh Generation, Stonyfield and Warby Parker. “This decision sends a message to every business in the United States: it is possible, achievable and necessary to adopt all-electric fleets for corporate transportation and shipping needs.” said Jamie Alexander, director of Drawdown Labs at Project Drawdown. “These companies are working hard to reduce their climate impact, and this move by the USPS enables them to address the difficult-to-abate supply chain emissions. This is good news for all involved. ” With a shift to electric vehicles, the group of companies believe it will not just be good for the environment but good for business as consumers reap the benefits of lower costs and other innovations made possible by electric vehicles.  The nation and the world are quickly transitioning to electric vehicles, led by consumer demand for the many benefits of EVs, including better efficiency, easier maintenance, zero emissions and better performance. That means cleaner air, reduced climate risk and improved health across the globe. Electrifying vehicles is a key climate solution, with the potential to reduce up to 9.8 gigatons of CO2-e by 2050. “For millions of small sellers and entrepreneurs on Etsy, a modern USPS committed to innovation and sustainability is crucial for the vibrancy of their small and micro businesses,” said Chelsea Mozen, senior director of impact & sustainability at Etsy. “The USPS’s commitment to a robust electric delivery fleet is good for the postal service, good for small businesses and good for America.” “USPS’s commitment to electric vehicles is great news for small businesses like the many on our platform who rely on USPS to keep their business moving. eBay is proud to support this move toward greater sustainability and a cleaner world,” said eBay chief sustainability officer Renée Morin.
Read more
Profile  |  January 24, 2023
Drawdown Science team member Yusuf Jameel
Drawdown Science profile: Yusuf Jameel
This article is the third in a series introducing the members of Project Drawdown’s new science team. Yusuf Jameel joined Project Drawdown in 2021 as a research manager for Drawdown Lift. In January 2023 he transitioned to the Drawdown Science team as associate scientist, data science. A multidisciplinary scientist with experience in water resources, public health, data analytics, and science communication, he’s passionate about finding solutions to climate change and bridging the gap between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Yusuf obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Please welcome Yusuf as he shares his thoughts on growing up on the banks of the Ganges River, enhancing human well-being through the adoption of climate solutions, porcupine hair, and more. Q: When people ask you what you do with Project Drawdown, what do you tell them?  A. As a member of the science team, I work on climate solutions using my experience in data analysis, especially on solutions that also address the food–energy–water nexus. I also work on translating the science in a way that makes it widely accessible.  Q: Of all of the things you could be doing, why did you choose to join Project Drawdown?   A: Project Drawdown is on a mission to actually address the biggest problem the world is facing today, climate change. I was really impressed by the book. It was the first to lay out that yes, we can address climate change—it's not just about gloom and doom, it’s also about opportunity. Project Drawdown addresses climate in a way that’s multidimensional, promotes the best science, addresses the different audiences, and passes the mic. That really motivates me. Q: What do you consider some of the biggest obstacles to implementing and scaling up climate solutions?  A: First is unlocking the finance to fund climate solutions globally. We need capital from the private sector, from banks divesting from fossil fuels, and we need to invest in green solutions. Another challenge is politics. We need to think more altruistically. This is a global challenge requiring everyone to join hands, yet it has not been the case so far. The good news is, public perception is changing. Hopefully politics will change, and more capital will be funneled into climate solutions. Q: OK, time for a break. What’s your favorite food? A: I would go with my comfort food, and that’s biryani. It’s a big tradition in South Asian countries, and if you ask anyone in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, biryani is probably one of the top dishes. It’s not the healthiest dish, but it’s just so comforting.  Q: I’m sure you have many, but can you tell us about one superpower you bring to this job? A: I’m a jack of all trades. Whether it’s high-level thinking, brainstorming ideas, or actually doing the work, I’m comfortable doing it all. I’m also adaptable. If a situation requires me to step up and take the lead I can, or I can step back and follow.  Q: What's a childhood experience that relates to the work you're doing today?  A: I grew up on the banks of the River Ganges. Every now and then there would be flooding. As a result, many people would go through an annual cycle of losing crops and be entrenched in a cycle of poverty, unable to get out. This had a profound effect on me. When I started reading about climate change and seeing flooding events become more and more intense, I recognized the need to address climate and development holistically.  Q: What’s your favorite Drawdown Solution?  A: There are so many of them! I really like Distributed Solar Photovoltaics and Reduced Food Waste, but my favorite is Clean Cooking. I think that solution can revolutionize the lives of billions of people in the world, especially young girls. It not only addresses climate but also vastly improves health, addresses gender equality, and opens up economic opportunities. If we can implement clean cooking and distributed solar, we’ll see huge changes in the lives of billions of people globally.  Q: Time for another break. If you were a nonhuman animal, what animal would you be?  A: As a kid I had short hair that was like vertical hair, as if I had had an electric shock. So many of my friends called me Porcupine. People  would rub my hair all the time as it felt like velvet. Now I keep my hair long.  Q: What gives you hope?  A: I derive my hope from two things. First, we’re rapidly advancing technology—a lot of people from across the world are putting their effort into finding and implementing the best and most important solutions to address climate change. Second,  when I was at COP27, I saw that young people are really leading the movement. That gives me hope that we can do meaningful work on this very important but challenging issue. Q: Anything else you’d like to share?  A: I like nature. I especially like mountains. This is something I realized very late in life, maybe because I grew up in cities with very little nature around. When I moved to Utah, I started going to the mountains. I realized how peaceful and how nice it is, and I can’t not talk about it.  As human societies are getting more urbanized,  a lot of us, especially young people who live in large metropolises, are cut off from nature. And I hope they reconnect with nature. We need to appreciate nature and biodiversity much more than we do. Once it’s gone, it’s not coming back. We need to love it, respect it, and protect it.
Read more