There’s no doubt: global warming is real and its main driver is carbon emissions from human activity. Drawdown (2017) argues that despite the depth of the climate crisis humans have manufactured, it’s not too late for us to turn back the clock. From solar power to agroforestry to electric cars, Drawdown compiles countless proven ways that radically reduce human carbon emissions. This essential guide contains all the knowledge and technology that we need to reverse global warming and save the world.
When Prussian polymath Alexander von Humboldt crossed the Baraba Steppe of Russia in 1829, he was shocked. In his diary, he noted how the intense agriculture of the region had depleted the land, desiccating its beautiful lakes and swamps.
Humboldt was one of the first scientists to acknowledge the negative effects humans could have on their environment. He prophetically identified deforestation and the “great masses of steam and gas” released during industrial processes as two major environmental threats.
Two and a half centuries later, in 1975, geochemist Wallace Broecker first used the term “global warming” to describe the continuous rise of the earth’s surface temperature. Today, there’s no doubt this warming is real. Scientists now predict that temperatures will rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The consequences of climate change include wildfires, droughts and sea level rise, which in turn will lead to violent conflicts and mass migration.
Much like Humboldt predicted, global warming is essentially caused by the “great masses of steam and gas” produced by human activity such as burning fossil fuels, making cement and farming land. These all release carbon dioxide, or CO2, into the earth’s atmosphere, thereby generating a “greenhouse effect” that leads to the warming of the planet.
Despite a clear connection between carbon emissions and global warming, humanity’s carbon footprint is steadily increasing. In 2016, 36 gigatons of CO2 were emitted. Imagine the contents of an Olympic-size pool, and then multiply that by 400,000 – that’s one gigaton.
At this rate, simply slowing or cutting carbon emissions will not be enough to stop global warming. We need to reach drawdown – the point in time at which greenhouse gases peak and then start steadily decreasing.
If we’re to achieve this, we obviously need to radically reduce our CO2 emissions. But we must also promote processes, such as the natural photosynthesis of plants, that decrease the CO2 already in the atmosphere.
Luckily, we already possess the tools we need to reverse global warming. Renewable energy, forest protection and sustainable agriculture are some of these technologies. Newer strategies include e-cars, ocean farming and carbon air capture. Almost all of these technologies have additional benefits: they save money, create jobs, prevent pollution and improve people’s health.
In the following blinks, we’ll explore in depth how these “no regrets” solutions can cut carbon emissions and help us achieve drawdown.