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Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

By Paul Hawken

Often, the solutions put forward in the book reaffirm compelling truths that for some inexplicable reason have not yet been taken forward effectively.

Climate change is a compelling and urgent narrative that surely needs to be widely adopted?

In these uncertain times, in which it so often feels that the climate is already running out of control, through both our actions and inaction, this book is resolutely focused on a positive response to our current predicament and therefore deserves the widest possible readership.

Whether we like it or not—whether we choose to “believe” the science or not—the reality of climate change is upon us. It’s affecting everything:

We know exactly why this is happening. We’ve known for more than a hundred years.

Beyond the damage to our planet, climate change threatens to undermine our social fabric and the foundations of democracy. We see the impacts of this in the United States in particular, where key parts of the federal government are denying the science, and are closely aligned with fossil fuel industries.

We think that our climate future is harsh because news and reports have focused on what will happen if we do not act. Drawdown shows us what we can do. Because of that, I think this is the single most important book ever written about climate change.

We have all the tools we need to combat climate change. We now have a plan showing us how to use them. Now let’s get to work and do it.

In atmospheric terms drawdown is that point in time at which greenhouse gases peak and begin to decline on a year-to-year basis

One hundred and ninety-five nations have made extraordinary progress in coming together to acknowledge that we have a momentous civilizational crisis on our earthly doorstep

Unquestionably, distress signals are flashing throughout nature and society, from drought, sea level rise, and unrelenting increases in temperatures to expanded refugee crises, conflict, and dislocation.

We see global warming not as an inevitability but as an invitation to build, innovate, and effect change, a pathway that awakens creativity, compassion, and genius. This is not a liberal agenda, nor is it a conservative one. This is the human agenda.

If you are traveling down the wrong road, you are still on the wrong road if you slow down. The only goal that makes sense for humanity is to reverse global warming, and if parents, scientists, young people, leaders, and we citizens do not name the goal, there is little chance it will be achieved.

Carbon dioxide may get the most press, but it is not the only greenhouse gas. Other heat-trapping gases include methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases, and water vapor.

The solutions presented in Drawdown are only a summary of the full research conducted to support our findings.

We also provide a full description of our research at drawdown.org—how all the data were generated, sources used, and assumptions made.

The era of fossil fuels is over, and the only question now is when the new era will be fully upon us. Economics make its arrival inevitable: Clean energy is less expensive.

Today, 314,000 wind turbines supply 3.7 percent of global electricity. And it will soon be much more. Ten million homes in Spain alone are powered by wind. Investment in offshore wind was $29.9 billion in 2016, 40 percent greater than the prior year.

In 2015, a record 63 gigawatts of wind power were installed around the world, despite a dramatic drop in fossil fuel prices.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that the fossil fuel industry received more than $5.3 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies in 2015; that is $10 million a minute, or about 6.5 percent of global GDP.

Wind energy, like other sources of energy, is part of a system. Investment in energy storage, transmission infrastructure, and distributed generation is essential to its growth.

For the world, the decision is simple: Invest in the future or in the past.

When coal is burned to boil water to turn a turbine to generate electricity, two-thirds of the energy is dispersed as waste heat and in-line losses.

A constant flow of heat moves up toward the earth’s crust, generating tectonic plate movement, earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountain making.

The heat energy generated is about 100 billion times more than current world energy consumption.

Fossil fuels power tractors, fishing vessels, transport, processing, chemicals, packaging materials, refrigeration, supermarkets, and kitchens. Chemical fertilizers atomize into the air, forming the powerful greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. Our passion for meat involves over 60 billion land animals that require nearly half of all agricultural land for food and pasture. Livestock emissions, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, are responsible for an estimated 18 to 20 percent of greenhouse gases annually, a source second only to fossil fuels.

If you add to livestock all other food-related emissions—from farming to deforestation to food waste—what we eat turns out to be the number one of the greatest causes of global warming along with the energy supply sector.

Instead of releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, food production can capture carbon as a means to increase fertility, soil health, water availability, yields, and ultimately nutrition and food security.

The most conservative estimates suggest that raising livestock accounts for nearly 15 percent of global greenhouse gases emitted each year; the most comprehensive assessments of direct and indirect emissions say more than 50 percent.

If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

According to the World Health Organization, only 10 to 15 percent of one’s daily calories need to come from protein, and a diet primarily of plants can easily meet that threshold.

Business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet (which includes cheese, milk, and eggs).

The potential health impact on millions of lives translates into trillions of dollars in savings:

Dietary shifts could be worth as much as 13 percent of worldwide gross domestic product

A 2016 World Resources Institute report analyzes a variety of possible dietary modifications and finds that “ambitious animal protein reduction” holds the greatest promise for ensuring a sustainable future for global food supply and the planet.

With billions of animals currently raised on factory farms, reducing meat and dairy consumption reduces suffering that is well documented, often extreme, and commonly overlooked.

Making the transition to a plant-based diet may well be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.

Around the world, farmers are walking away from lands that were once cultivated or grazed because those lands have been “farmed out.” Agricultural practices depleted fertility, eroded soil, caused compaction, drained groundwater, or created salinity by over-irrigation.

A comprehensive study out of Stanford University estimates that there are 950 million to 1.1 billion acres of deserted farmland around the world—acreage once used for crops or pasture that has not been restored as forest or converted to development.

According to Professor Rattan Lal of the Ohio State University, the world’s cultivated soils have lost 50 to 70 percent of their original carbon stock, which combines with oxygen in the air to become carbon dioxide.

Restoration can mean the return of native vegetation, the establishment of tree plantations, or the introduction of regenerative farming methods.

Lal estimates that farmland soils could reabsorb 88 billion to 110 billion tons of carbon, all the while enhancing tilth, fertility, biodiversity, and the water cycle.

For more than a third of the world’s labor force, the production of food is the source of their livelihoods, and all people are sustained by consuming it. Yet a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork.

Hunger is a condition of life for nearly 800 million people worldwide.

The food we waste contributes 4.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere each year—roughly 8 percent of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

A fundamental equation is off-kilter: People who need food are not getting it, and food that is not getting consumed is heating up the planet.

Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin.

Why bother? That really is the big question facing us as individuals hoping to do something about climate change, and it’s not an easy one to answer.

There are so many stories we can tell ourselves to justify doing nothing, but perhaps the most insidious is that, whatever we do manage to do, it will be too little too late.

Have you looked into the eyes of a climate scientist recently? They look really scared.

Regenerative agricultural practices restore degraded land.

The purpose of regenerative agriculture is to continually improve and regenerate the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves plant health, nutrition, and productivity.

Regenerative agriculture increases organic matter, fertility, texture, water retention, and the existence of trillions of organisms that convey health and protection to the roots and plant itself.

In conventional agriculture, seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides go in and food comes out; however, the soil pays a heavy price, as do water, the air, birds, beneficial insects, human health, and the climate.

If a farmer does not provide nourishment to the soil, it becomes infertile, diseased, and deadened. These are commonsense, simple principles that underlie regenerative practices.

There has long been a conventional wisdom that the world cannot be fed without chemicals and synthetic fertilizers.

Evidence points to a new wisdom: The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed.

Indeed, regenerative agriculture is one of the greatest opportunities to simultaneously address human, soil, and climate health, along with the financial well-being of farmers.

Take, make, waste - the modus operandi of the industrial era. Take the resources needed, make them into things, discard the by-product , and, eventually consign the used goods to waste.

This entire book asks whether, as a species, we can reverse global warming. To do that, the demise of living ecosystems needs to be reversed.

The solutions in Drawdown outlining regenerative farming and conservation agriculture, as well as those that address agroforestry, tree intercropping, and managed grazing, all feed the soil microbiome, reap the benefits thereof, and significantly reduce or eliminate the need for fossil fuel–derived fertilizers.

Soil quality is declining in the world, presenting humankind with a choice: Try to correct this with yet more chemicals or rebuild a healthy soil ecosystem.

There is perhaps no greater contribution to soil health and carbon sequestration (or emissions reduction) than the ability to farm without disturbing the soil.

What we choose to eat, and the methods employed to grow it, rank with energy as the top causes and cures of global warming.

Individuals cannot stave off the acidification of the world’s oceans.

Individuals cannot halt the lucrative subsidies granted to fossil fuel companies.

What individuals can do is become a movement.

Restoration creates more jobs than despoliation. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future rather than stealing it.

We will either come together to address global warming or we will likely disappear as a civilization.

We became human beings by working together and helping one another.

What it takes to reverse global warming is one person after another remembering who we truly are.