BC Nature Magazine Winter 2021 Karen Crosby
Project Drawdown is a global coalition of scientists, researchers, economists and others, that has built a model to evaluate solutions to climate change, based on their actual impact on greenhouse gas emissions. This organization has created Climate Solutions 101, a series of six exemplary videos (called Units 1 to 6) outlining how we humans got into this climate emergency mess and how we can get out of it.
Watch the videos at https:// drawdown.org/climate-solutions-101
This article is the first in a series of three articles. Each article will summarize two video links from Climate Solutions 101 with the hope of inspiring BC Nature members to view and add more climate understanding and solutions to their existing toolboxes.
Understanding this information might also inspire you to enroll in Drawdown B.C.’s “Getting into Action” online course– registration information can be found at: https://drawdownbc.org/programs- projects/
Unit1: Setting the Stage This 13-minute video helps us understand how the climate crisis got started. Although humans have lived on planet Earth for an estimated 6 million years, it is only in the last century that we began living in mostly urban settlements with a rapidly growing global population. In the last 50 years, we have seen a great acceleration. For example:
a) Our economy grew five to six times greater b) We are using about three times more fossil fuels c) Our population has doubled d) We are producing three times more food and using twice the amount of water.
The changes in us are changing the planet. Some of these changes are visible, like cutting down the forests. Thirty percent of tropical forests are gone. Farming lands, are now the largest ecosystem on Earth and about 70% of the water we take out of nature is used for agricultural irrigation, leading to large geographical areas drying out (Aral Sea, California, parts of Africa and China.) Some of these changes are subtle or invisible, like changes to our climate and atmosphere. The planet has already warmed by more than one degree Celsius which we see in accelerated glacier melting and decreasing sea ice.
If we continue “business as usual”, the climate crisis and warming will keep worsening. There will be massive disruptions to all systems on our planet, including us. This will be most harmful to the most vulnerable people on Earth and to future generations. These people did not emit much (or anything, if they are unborn) and yet they will have centuries of clean up to do, if they survive. Not a positive scenario... and yet...it is not hopeless.
Some things have improved in the last 50 years, showing humans are capable of positive action. For example: a) humans are overall less violent b) we live longer, healthier lives (average global life expectancy has moved from 55 to
71 years old) c) women have fewer children (from 5 to 2.3 and falling faster than was predicted)
What will the future be? It is in our hands. We need to make a choice between the people we are and the people we can be or want to be, a choice for a future where people and nature can thrive. The future of the Earth will depend on that choice. What choice do we make today?
Unit 2: Stopping Climate Change and Achieving Drawdown This 16.5-minute video starts by making the point that everything humans need is connected to climate: air, economy, food, health, security, and water. If we choose to NOT fix climate change, all the other things we care about will be harder in the future.
So, what is DRAWDOWN? It is a point in time in the future when the greenhouse gas emissions stop climbing and begin to decline. Drawdown means we would be able to stop further climate change.The basic science is this: Greenhouse gases let in the sun’s heat and trap heat inside the earth’s atmosphere. That means more gases equals more heat. The most commonly occurring examples include: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases. These gases naturally occurred before humans walked the Earth but now humans are adding to them very significantly. So far, we have caused the Earth to warm by 1 to 1.3 degrees Celsius. This may not seem like much but, during the last ice age, our planet was only three degrees colder and was under a kilometre of ice in some places!
Greenhouse gases come from many things humans do; 62% of carbon dioxide comes from burning coal, oil and gas, 3% from chemical processes like producing cement, and 11% from burning trees and deforestation. Agriculture produces about 2/3 of the methane we release, and industry accounts for about the other 1/3. Methane accounts for 16% of emissions. Fluorinated gases (2%) often are released from refrigerants and insulators whereas nitrous oxide (6%) often comes from using too much fertilizer/manure and industrial processes. These are all SOURCES of greenhouse gases as they add to the climate crisis. (See table below)
Some things reduce greenhouse gases and are called SINKS. The land (mainly trees and plants) and oceans are two natural sinks. These pull about 41% of the greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere! We need nature!
Land and ocean sinks remove 41% of emissions, leaving 59% to build up in the atmosphere every year. We need to reduce sources and increase sinks! Also, Drawdown operates on the principle that, in the process of doing so, we need to improve society with greater equity, justice, and human rights. Human society is ripe for positive changes!
My article in the next issue of BC Nature’s magazine will focus on scientifically-backed climate solutions we already know about to fix this mess – humans do have the solutions, so stay tuned! ◊ Karen Crosby
Download this PDF to read the whole article.