Quite a few people in the climate field have been showing interest in Project Drawdown and the Project’s anticipated 2017 book (and database) covering the 100 ways to best “draw-down” greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The list is detailed and includes more than “pure” climate issues—for example, it includes education of girls.
There’s nothing fundamentally new about arguing that we could address climate change “if only” we would scale up and deploy a particular technology or implement a particular social, technical, or political measure. Socolow’s “stabilization wedges” (2004), Randers and Gildings “1 degree war plan” (2010), Mckinsey’s mitigation cost curves (2007), Jacobsen’s 100% renewable electricity roadmaps (2016), all fall into this category of “if only we would act” strategies. Unfortunately, acting on these strategies turns out to be much more difficult than coming up with the ideas. Will Project Drawdown’s 100 wedges simply become another entry in the “if only we . . . “ list?
A lot depends on whether—along with assessing the “drawdown potential” of each measure—the Project Drawdown team identifies the barriers that have prevented the measure from being successfully scaled up to date. Ideally, such an assessment went into the identification of the 100 measures, but there’s no indication of that on the website or in Paul Hawken’s talks about the project. In addition, we would need to identify constituencies that we can realistically mobilize to overcome those barriers.
In other words, much depends on whether Project Drawdown envisions itself in a technology assessment role or in the role of a Chess Grand Master, coordinating efforts to move the 100 Drawdown measures forward on the enormous Climate Chessboard. It’s not clear whether Project Drawdown has such an ambition. We hope it does.
We use the Climate Web Spotlight below to explore some of the key questions that one would need to explore in order to make such forward movement. The Spotlight focuses specifically on the 71 Project Drawdown options currently listed on the group’s website. It also provides alternative ways to look at those options (clicking on each of the hyperlinks below will take you to the indicated spot in the Spotlight):
- By Sector: which sectors dominate?
- By Key Barriers: where might we get the most bang for our buck if certain barriers can be overcome?
- By Drivers Behind Development of Solutions: what’s going to cause these measures to deploy at a level that leads to drawdown of GHGs? Do public policy mandates have to dominate the drivers list?
- By Constituency: who’s likely to be implementing the options, and how can they be motivated to want to do so?
These explorations are preliminary; they don’t pull all the lenses together in order to prioritize certain options over others, at least in the near term. But they do begin to identify the steps involved in thinking through the idea of Drawdown Chess.
The Climate Web also explores the topic of Climate Chess in much more depth, which would be integrated into Drawdown Chess.
- Identifying more than 100 Team Climate Urgency chess pieces
- Identifying the numerous players (just) on Team Climate Urgency
- Sorting through the motivations of Team Climate Urgency
Climate Chess is a complicated game. It’s a critical game to understand, however, if we want to more successfully tackle climate change. Project Drawdown could help. Let’s hope it does.