These two articles contain fascinating concepts and possibilities for reversing climate change had we started decades ago and also researched the limits and implications of the proposed methodology. The “Drawdown” book by Hawkins is fascinating and full of novel ideas (my favorite is feeding seaweed to cattle to reduce their methane output).
At this stage, where our time to reverse increasing temperatures and the effects is measured in single digits of years, the proposals are interesting but very possibly a little late.
These are the sort of approaches that could have been adopted by the fossil fuel industry if they had understood the profits to be and the stranglehold being the owner of these technologies would give them over the planet. At this point tho, the political forces that could fund these is thoroughly beholden to the fossil fuel industry. So who is going to take action that is prompt enough to matter?
Harvard scientists want to limit how much sunlight reaches Earth’s surface in order to curb global warming
- Climate change and global warming are among the greatest challenges mankind has faced up until now.
- Researchers at Harvard have put forward a new solution — they want to reflect some of the sun’s heat back out to space.
- The process is referred to as “solar geoengineering” or “solar geotechnics”.
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges mankind has faced up until now.
How we’ll be able to curtail global warming and its devastating consequences is still very much a hot potato among politicians and scientists alike — and so far, the outcome of all these debates hasn’t been particularly fruitful.
However, researchers at Harvard may have come up with a solution that sounds just a little too good to be true.
In conjunction with researchers from MIT and Princeton, the group has suggested slowing down global warming by diminishing the amount of sunlight that reaches Earth’s surface.
Yes, you read that right. The technology is called solar geoengineering or solar geotechnics.
According to a study published in Nature Climate Change, the researchers are considering what might happen if they were to introduce sunlight-reflecting particles into Earth’s atmosphere.
The most important thing to note is that the researchers aren’t suggesting the method is a solution to rising global warming trends; it isn’t designed to bring temperatures back to pre-industrial levels nor does it address the real crux of the problem — the amount of carbon dioxide we’re producing.
In fact, too high a dose of “dimming” could even worsen the situation.
Postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Peter Irvine, was the lead author of the study.
“The analogy is not perfect,” he explained, “but solar geoengineering is a little like a drug which treats high blood pressure. An overdose would be harmful, but a well-chosen dose could reduce your risks. Of course, it’s better to not have high blood pressure in the first place but once you have it, along with making healthier lifestyle choices, it’s worth considering treatments that could lower your risks.”
The study suggests that this technology could the rate at which temperatures are increasing in half, which could offer global benefits without exacerbating problems in other parts of the world.
Alongside this measure, however, carbon dioxide emissions would still need to be reduced across the globe.
More water and fewer hurricanes
In order to better understand which regions might end up worse off if this geoengineering technology were combined with emission reductions, the researchers used a state-of-the-art, high-resolution model to simulate extreme rainfall and tropical hurricanes.
This is the first time a model of this sort has been used to look into the possible effects of solar geotechnics.
The researchers studied temperature and precipitation extremes, water availability, and also measured the intensity of tropical storms.
They found that halving global warming via geoengineering would not only cool the planet but also moderate changes in water availability and extreme precipitation in many places.
While the science surrounding geoengineering technology is over half a century old, it’s only recently — since our attention has been drawn Earth’s climate change — that scientists have intensified their researched the field.
Researchers at Harvard University have stressed, however, that our main response to climate change should be to curb carbon dioxide emissions; geoengineering alone simply wouldn’t be capable of fully remedying the root of the environmental problems.
This post originally appeared on Business Insider Deutschland and has been translated from German.
Copyright 2019. Follow Business Insider Deutschland on Twitter.
This List Of Climate Change Solutions May Be Key To Reversing It
“Brilliant” is the word one source used to describe Project Drawdown’s ranked list of 100 climate change solutions, begging the meta question, should the list be on the list.
Having a variety of climate change solution options is only useful if everyone who should know they exist does know, making a credible list of climate solutions potentially as important as the solutions on the list.
In 2017, Project Drawdown, published the New York Times bestseller Drawdown, edited by the founder, Paul Hawken, 72. (Be sure to watch the full interview with Hawken in the player at the top of the article.)
Mehjabeen Abidi Habib, the author of Water in the Wilderness, based in Pakistan, the seventh most vulnerable country to climate change effects, serves on the Project Drawdown advisory board. She sees the effort as evidence “that it is not too late to make choices to change our world view and the actions that arise from the current paradigm.”
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Jason F. McLennan, founder and chair of the International Living Future Institute and CEO of McLennan Design has known Hawken for years and notes that his work was mentioned in Drawdown. “I think it’s brilliant is the short answer,” he says. “It doesn’t spend time and energy on pointing fingers or criticizing things. It focuses on positive solutions.”
Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) who counts Hawken as a friend notes that the project is intended “not just to slow down climate change but reverse it.”
Daniel J. Siegel, MD, author of Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence and a clinical professor at UCLA School of Medicine agrees with the Congressman, adding, “My take on Project Drawdown is that it is a scientifically solid, insightful guide to some of the most important and effective steps we are taking to reverse global warming.”
Habib highlights the optimism embedded in the project. She notes that Hawken says in the introduction that climate change is “happening for us” to help us create a better world.
Credibility from Sound Science
Project Drawdown is no mere journalistic attempt to document and prioritize the science of climate change. It is a serious, multi-year, ongoing scientifically-driven research project to identify the most impactful climate change interventions, ranking them according to their potential to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, with the goal in mind to ultimately draw down the levels of atmospheric carbon and reverse climate change.
Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, serves on the board, bringing political clout. “We [Hawken and I] had worked together on every State of the State I gave as Governor of Maryland from 2010 to 2015. Paul kindly asked me join the Drawdown Board in 2016.”
John Elkington, founder and chief pollinator for Volans, says, “Critically, the mathematical modeling involved has given the rankings far greater credibility than other initiatives.”
“As a scientist, the strategy of Project Drawdown is an important approach to seeing how we can find a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and reverse the direction of climate change from the disasters that await to a more promising future,” says UCLA’s Siegel, approving of the approach. Pakistan’s Habib also approves. Fearing that the approach might be US-centric, she was pleased to see “the universality of its priorities.”
Hawken explains the approach, “Project Drawdown gathers and facilitates a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions.
A bestselling author, Hawken is himself a highly regarded climate voice, frequently being quoted as an expert in the media. He points out that the Project Drawdown team is not doing primary research, rather they are aggregating and reviewing published data. “There is the data. You can find it yourself,” he suggests, arguing for the objectivity of the approach.
Governor O’Malley explains the potential impact of Project Drawdown, “There is a management wisdom ‘things that get measured are the things that get done.’ But when it comes to reversing global warming no one before had done the basic work of measuring the potential impact of the range of human solutions to this human-caused problem. Drawdown has now done that.”
“Project Drawdown reminds us to never underestimate what we can do,” says Betsy Taylor, president of the consulting firm Breakthrough Strategies. “Together, we can address the climate threat and make everyone safer.”
As a clear sign that the work is being taken seriously, Penn State is launching two programs based specifically on Project Drawdown, according to Tom L. Richard, director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment there. First, is an undergraduate “Drawdown Scholars” program over this coming summer with 40 student-faculty teams working to improve and enhance the analytical models for implementing the solutions. The second is to host an international conference called “Research to Action: The Science of Drawdown.”
The impact of Project Drawdown isn’t just academic or theoretical. In Pakistan, Habib notes action is being taken based on the list. Noting that the most impactful item on the list is refrigerant management, caused the government to prioritize this by policy. “Just today, a project preparation grant has been received to help Pakistan prepare to phase out old refrigerators and phase in energy efficient refrigerators.”
One Problem With Many Solutions
“This is an impressive project, but what is perhaps most striking is the sheer diversity of the solutions available to us, from converting to green-energy technologies to transitioning to healthier plant-rich diets,” notes Congressman Ryan. “Project Drawdown reminds us that although the challenges we face are great, they come with exciting opportunities to change the world for the better.”
Project Drawdown ranks 80 existing interventions that are already being scaled by their potential for carbon impact. The list also includes 20 additional interventions that are proven but are not yet scaling.
Commenting on the wide range of solutions listed by Project Drawdown, Robyn O’Brien, vice president of replant Capital, says, “None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something. It allows you to pick something that you are passionate about, to leverage it with what you are good at and drive change.”
“I think the list of climate interventions also highlight surprising things that need their due. The focus on women and girls is huge. So, too, is the focus on food waste. These are things we need to solve for multiple reasons,” says McLennan, whose work on living building is included in Drawdown. Noting that refrigerant management is number one and is “something we can address without too much difficulty,” he says, is an example of the “mundane” on the list.
The list isn’t just interesting or clever in its diversity. “Project Drawdown’s comprehensive framework is proving a powerful lens through which to focus our university’s research, education and outreach expertise on this critical issue,” Richard says.
Similarly, Governor O’Malley says, “So instead of merely connecting the scientific dots that take us all straight to hell, we can now combine that science with current technical know-how to measure, model, and map our way to a future where we Drawdown more carbon from the atmosphere every day than we pump into it.”
The List Changes Perceptions
One way that the list is having an impact is changing perceptions of both climate activists and so-called “climate deniers.”
“The ranking has proved to be a very powerful way of challenging people’s preconceptions of how we impact the climate – and of where the most powerful leverage points are for reversing global warming,” Elkington says.
UCLA’s Siegel says, “As a psychotherapist, I see one of the most powerful contributions of Paul Hawken and Project Drawdown as being the way we can have realistic hope instead of the doom and gloom one often hears when people speak of climate change.”
Penn State’s Richard says, “Project Drawdown offers a positive vision of the future; that the widespread implementation of these solutions can lead to a world of health and abundance rather than one of poverty and insecurity.”
A New View of Climate Economics
Several of the people reached for comment, noted that Project Drawdown provides a refreshing view of climate economics.
McLellan noted, “that doing the right thing can be great economically for the world.”
Hawken explains that implementing wind power will have a positive financial return for the world of over $7 trillion over 30 years for that single intervention.
He notes that the estimate for this and other interventions improves over time as technology progresses and data grows, even since the book was published in 2017. “About 70% of the solutions are actually very profitable and the other 20% are breaking even and 10% cost money,” Hawken says. “I think what people say is, ‘Well, my god, it’s a cost, you know, we can’t afford it.’ We say, ‘We can’t afford not to,’” he says.
Challenges and Limitations
Despite the praise, it is clear that Project Drawdown is not a climate cure-all. “
The key question now is whether we can muster the political will to advance Project Drawdown’s inspiring set of solutions,” points out Taylor.
John Wick, founder of the Marin Carbon Project, spoke with me at length. He is both a fan of and a collaborator with Project Drawdown. Still, he notes that there is still work to be done.
“I would say that that first draft the first list was a proof of concept and that there are other things that that are possibly even more exciting and more will more directly result in wholesale carbon harvesting from the atmosphere and stabilizing the climate. But they weren’t ready for primetime,” he says. “And so what we did with Project drawdown was establish a process whereas new things can come in to this process. And as we perfect the modeling I expect that the [final] draft results will be different.”
O’Malley notes that realizing the potential impact of Project Drawdown will require local adoption. “The global macro-model was a needed and important breakthrough, but success will depend upon our ability to make that model actionable in the small places close to home all over the globe. Cities, towns, and farmlands. Counties and States.”
Implicitly making the case for including the Drawdown list on the list, Hawken says, “ We solve [climate change] by creating the tools, knowledge and capacity for self-organization to address these issues worldwide. ” Whether the list should be on the list or not, here’s to effective self-organization.