June 27, 2022

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

byMary 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. 

More Insights

Feature  |  December 2, 2022
Carrying on the COP27 conversation
by Kristen P. Patterson
Three members of the Drawdown Lift team traveled to COP27 in November to represent Project Drawdown and promote climate solutions that generate tangible co-benefits for human well-being. Lift team members participated in and organized panel presentations; engaged with three Lift Advisory Council members, one Project Drawdown Board member, and multiple collaborating organizations; and met with leaders from several country delegations, including Bangladesh, Niger, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The team published three articles during and after COP27 that highlight different aspects of the conversations and key outcomes from the meeting, particularly around the topics of climate justice, gender equality, and loss and damage, all of which are relevant for Drawdown Lift's work. In "Project Drawdown: COP27 must answer calls for accelerated action and climate justice," Drawdown Lift program coordinator Carissa Patrone Maikuri called for an end to "siloed thinking." Instead, she wrote at Race to Resilience, we must "address multiple global crises together" with the well-being of people and planet front and center. "Beyond 8 billion: Focus on women, not population, for reproductive and climate justice," centers the role of gender equity in climate solutions. "We need to turn away from dramatic headlines about the number of people on the planet and instead focus on the actual issue driving the continued rise of humans on Earth—a lack of rights, for women and girls in particular," I wrote in the piece, which published at Race to Resilience on November 14, the day for which gender was the COP27 theme. "COP27: Balancing historic decisions and alarming shortcomings," by Patrone Maikuri and Drawdown Lift research manager Yusuf Jameel, gave a shoutout to "a first small, yet symbolic, step" the international conference took to advance climate justice: creating a mechanism for paying for climate-related losses encumbered by countries most affected by, yet often least responsible for, climate change. I invite and encourage you to check out these thoughtful essays as you consider how you personally, and we as a society, might work to redress injustices while building a more secure future for ourselves and generations to come.  
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Op-ed  |  November 22, 2022
COP27 photo from Egypt
In pursuit of a just and equitable future for all: 7 key takeaways from COP27
by Kristen P. Patterson
Project Drawdown engaged with myriad colleagues and partner institutions from around the world at COP27. We are pleased to share these reflections from Drawdown Lift’s director, Kristen P. Patterson, who leads our work to prioritize climate change solutions that generate multiple benefits for boosting well-being, strengthening resilience, and contributing to poverty alleviation. The annual United Nations climate meeting wrapped up recently in Egypt. As we reflect upon the summit, I would like to share seven thoughts about #COP27, with an eye towards three topics that are critical for a just and equitable future for all—climate justice, gender equality, and emergency brake solutions. 1) Loss and damage - High income countries arrived at COP27 like my teenager with headphones on—clueless about what the rest of the world had been saying for months, namely that wealthy countries must set up a fund to deal with climate impacts like floods and droughts in low-and middle-income countries. The world hasn’t acted quickly enough on mitigation, nor on adaptation, so now we must add reparations to the mix. Major kudos to the negotiators, including government staff as well as NGO representatives, from developing countries who achieved this outcome. Yes, agreeing to create a fund (akin to the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund) is just a first step. But it's an important one. 2) Women's leadership - We should all be in awe of Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's minister for climate change, who I was honored to have met briefly at COP27. She led a group of 134 (!) countries that negotiated the loss and damage outcome. Having more women in the halls of COP27 and at the negotiation table is critical. 3) Gender equality - We desperately need the skills of all women to solve the climate crisis—regardless of whether they are from rural or urban areas, or are rich or poor. Imagine if women had been more prominent in climate negotiations or held more leadership positions over the past three decades. As we mark the 8 billion milestone this month, full bodily autonomy, reproductive rights, and quality universal education are in fact key pillars of climate justice and adaptation; we can and should do more to integrate reproductive rights into climate. 4) Methane - Curbing methane—a fast-acting GHG that is responsible for nearly 45 percent of current net warming (0.5 C out of 1.1C)—is absolutely essential. We need to act decisively to reduce methane by 30% by 2030. By winning the sprint on methane, we give ourselves a bit more time to complete the marathon on other long-acting GHGs like carbon dioxide by 2050.
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Press Release  |  November 17, 2022
Discover your inner climate superhero
by Drawdown Stories
Drawdown’s Neighborhood, presented by Project Drawdown, is a series of short documentaries featuring the stories of climate solutions heroes, city by city. We are extremely excited to share with you that the series’ second edition—Drawdown’s Neighborhood: Atlanta—is now available online! We invite you to join host and Project Drawdown director of storytelling and engagement Matt Scott on a journey to “pass the mic” to nine climate heroes whose stories often go unheard, and elevate climate action—and stories about careers, race, gender, sexuality, mental health, personal and community resilience, family, and more—in the process. The series’ second round of documentary shorts showcases the Atlanta, Georgia, which played a pivotal role in the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and today maintains a strong global reputation for social activism, cultural diversity, and economic innovation. In its climate action plan, the City of Atlanta has recognized the need for change, acknowledging “the risk that climate change poses” and asserting that “local action is needed to reduce the City of Atlanta’s contribution to the problem of climate change and adapt to its current and future effects.” In response to the impacts of climate change, people from all over the city are mobilizing to fuel a green future – leveraging Atlanta’s innovative spirit and rich tradition of civic engagement to achieve much-needed change. This series showcases the diverse “Neighborhood” of people working in Atlanta and surrounding communities to help the world reach drawdown, the future point when levels of greenhouse gases start to steadily decline. Each story serves as a bridge between climate solutions and people like you looking to tap into their own superpowers to stop climate change.   The Drawdown’s Neighborhood short documentaries touch on a range of themes used to inspire action. Themes include pathways to climate careers; collaboration across silos, including geographies, sectors, and ideologies; diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice; hope and opportunity; individual action paired with systems change; and personal and community resilience. The nine stories from Atlanta center the voices of women, Black people, people of color, immigrants, and others who are often not represented in the climate dialogue and yet are commonly most immediately and severely vulnerable to the impacts of climate catastrophe. You’ll find your superpower with Demetrius Milling, whose work with the Love is Love Cooperative Farm propels a vision for a just, healthy, and sustainable world powered by local community collaboration—a model to be replicated as we build the future. You’ll turn the page and embrace change with Adam Hicks, who simultaneously fights food insecurity and climate change by diverting food waste from farms to help the local community access fresh fruits and vegetables—helping to draw down climate emissions while addressing hunger through millions of servings of fruits and vegetables made accessible via donations to local food banks and shelters. You’ll ask questions and find answers with Blair Beasley, who supports research for Drawdown Georgia, a first-of-its-kind, state-centered initiative to crowd-solve for climate change by focusing on five high-impact climate solutions areas of electricity, transportation, buildings and materials, food and agriculture, and land sinks to drastically cut carbon emissions.  The series also includes: Eri Saikawa, Research Professor of Environmental Sciences at Emory University  Kendrick Kelsey, Reuse Center Associate at the Lifecycle Building Center Robin Okunowo, Program Coordinator with Captain Planet Foundation’s Planeteer Alliance Steve Place, Horticulturist II with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design Tonya Hicks, President and CEO of Power Solutions Inc. Tylesha Giddings, Technical Project Manager at Southface Institute Feeling inspired? To unleash your inner climate superhero, visit Drawdown’s Neighborhood to discover solutions and take action today. 
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