Skip to main content

Chapter Eight - Drawdown

Technology and Innovation

Technology, as we have seen, has played a critical role in shaping the modern world, paticularly in the last 250 years.  It has been central to our enjoying continued economic growth over that period; raising enormously our standards of living.  We do, however, require continued innovation to help solve the climate crisis.  Not only do we need to deploy existing technologies but also we need to invent new ones.

It is important, therefore, to ensure that technology advancement continues.  We cannot allow the economy to stagnate.  We need continued incentives for entrepreneurs to innovate and bring products to market.

The view now is that technology and innovation are realised within systems where there is also an active government intervention.  They cannot be left to markets alone although markets remain a powerful force.  Since we need to accelerate the process of innovation, we should focus our resources to create such an environment.  The U.K. government, for example, has recently announced a £1bn fund for clean technologies.

The caveat remains that technology will provide the complete answer.  It is unreasonable to expect that the rate of decarbonization required will be achieved through entirely technical solutions.  Social innovation/change/upheaval will be required also, which accompanies, typically, all technological change.

Types of 'Systems Thinking' Required

As established in Chapter 4, by mid-century at the latest the whole economy must be net zero-carbon.  This means that, but the 2020s, corporates and innovative start-ups will almost certainly have to be 'ahead of the curve' and effectively carbon neutral. This is now upon us and if we seek examples of companies truly engaged today, few can be found.  This is not reason to be despondent.  The challenge is to use our remaining carbon budget in ways that allow us to scale up renewable and nuclear energy so that, in future, businesses can be truly carbon neutral.

Finally, we need to think of technology in broad terms with CO2 reduction the paramount goal.  To this end, a 2017 study (Drawdown, The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, ed. Paul Hawken). in the U.S.A. identified 80 actionable technologies that, collectively, facilitate carbon neutrality by 2050.  I would urge readers to buy this Drawdown book or else check out its website and support the initiative as it is a living process.  The technology list has since expanded to 100 solutions and, most recently, 36 of them have been identified as being scalable within the next decade allowing the world to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 - an important interim milestone.  Here, for now, is a brief overview of the Top 15 CO2 saving solutions.

Drawdown Top 15

  1. Refrigerant Management - replacing 700 million air-conditioning units by 2030
  2. Wind Turbines
  3. Reduced Food Waste - currently one third of food produced is not consumed
  4. Plant-Rich Diet - according to the World Health Organisation only 10-15% of daily calories need to come from protein.
  5. Tropical Forests - restore 864 million acres before 2030
  6. Education - specifically girls to empower them to have smaller families.  Education is also benefial in its own right.
  7. Family Planning - without healthcare and family planning the world population could be 1bn higher by 2050.
  8. Solar Farms - set to become the least expensive energy in the world, although it would need back-up power
  9. Silvopasture - when cattle are grazed under a canopy of trees
  10. Rooftop Solar
  11. Regenerative Agriculture - restoring degraded land and soil carbon
  12. Temperate Forests
  13. Peatlands - carbon sinks when wet but if disrupted then carbon emitters.  Re-wetting them must be considered
  14. Tropical Staple Trees
  15. Afforestation - on both micro- and macroscales
Of the 15 possibilities above, it is surprising that few 'technology' solutions are considered because, although they make economic sense, they actually save comparatively little in CO2 terms.  Yet options such as geothermal, nuclear, electric vehicles, mass transit, LED lighting, heat pumps etc must all be considered and the authors stressed that efforts should be made with all options to achieve successfully what they term 'Drawdown' by 2050.

We need all stakeholders - corporates, governments, institutions and the wider public alike to rally behind this agenda if it to meet success.  We know what to do - now we just need  the will to do it!


The final point to note is that innovation is non-linear, systemic and often unpredictable.  It cannot be said with any certainty what shape companies and organisations will be in in 2030 let alone 2050.  Technology is path dependent - it depends on choices made in the past and it is this path which we now need to change by altering land-use, scaling-up renewables and energy efficient solutions now!

Footnote: What Individuals Can Do

Although the Drawdown list above might seem grand to the individual, the Union of Concerned Scientists has compiled a list of what individuals can do to contribute to stopping/reducing global warming:

  1. Cars - select one with the best fuel economy
  2. Houses - make your house air tight
  3. Heating - buy and use a programmable thermostat
  4. Diet - eat less meat, especially beef
  5. Energy - use power strips since these will curb 'phantom loads'
  6. Refrigerators and air conditioners - upgrade if over 5 years old since new appliances will, typically, payback within 3 years;
  7. Electricity monitors - these will help you identify where most domestic energy is used
  8. Light bulbs- switch to new LED lighting
  9. Washing - wash in cold water to save emissions; and
  10. Buy less and re-use and recycle.
As a world we also face clearly resource constraints as the population rises, and resources will, therefore, have to be much better managed.  More will be discussed on the Circular/Low Carbon Economy in the next chapter!


Popular posts from this blog


Last summer, 2018, was horrendous with heatwaves and associated deaths affecting nearly every corner of the globe.  There is no doubt, in thinking minds, that climate change is well and truly upon us and that the time to act is NOW!  We can no longer afford to "wait" until we take action.  Time for delay is well and truly over.

We all write about issues from our own particular world view point.  It is near impossible not to so the subject of climate change is no different.  I should, therefore, summarise my background and the setting that frames this book.

As a teenager in the 1980s, I had a very religious upbringing in The Worldwide Church of God, which proved instructive in many ways.  As a consequence, a belief in God and The Holy Bible influenced my secondary school studies.  I worked hard and, with the exception of Chemistry and Art, gained A grades in all G.C.S.E. subjects and, subsequently, in A-Level German, Economics and Mathematics although Further Mathematics was…

Chapter One - The Kaya Identity & IPAT

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that is contributing to climate change by trapping solar infra-red rays within the atmosphere and, in turn, heating up the ocean and land temperatures.  Although other gases play a role, since 2000 the dominant gas is CO2.  CO2 is the biggest headache and therefore the focus in this blog.

The 'problem' of climate change is immensely complicated but, at the same time, the solution is very simple - we need to stop emissions.  Without getting too involved in the contradictions surrounding the subject (and often hypocritical actions), resolution can be simplified into one equation, the Kaya Identity, which was developed by a Japanese energy economist of the same name, Yoichi Kaya (1993):

           F = P * (G/P) * (E/G) * (F/E) = P * g * e * f


F is global CO2 emissions from human sources;

P is the global population;

G is world GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and g = (G/P) the global per-capita GDP;

E is global primary energy consumption and …

Chapter Two - What Is Climate Change?

I'm writing this as the latest climate-changed induced heatwave grips Europe (The World Meteorological Organisation has said the high temperatures are "absolutely consistent" with anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases).  The mercury hit 45C in Montpellier, France, yesterday - a record high for June - as high as August in Death Valley.

Climate and Weather

Yet it is important to make a distinction between climate and weather.  According to, simple climate definitions include:

1. The composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of years; and

2. A region or area characterized by a given climate: to move to a warm climate.

Weather is defined as:

1. The state of the atmosphere with respect to wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture, pressure, etc.; and

2. A strong wind or storm or strong winds and storms colle…