WHAT DOES DRAWDOWN LOOK LIKE FOR THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT?

This article looks into what drawdown looks like for the built environment. It is comprised of the top buildings and cities solutions that made it into the 100 most effective solutions as quantified by Project Drawdown in 2017.

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It may surprise some people to know that no buildings and cities solutions made it into the top 20. But taken in their entirety, this is a key sector to decarbonise.

I will go through each of the solutions in order and mention their potential to reduce gigatons of carbon emissions.

27 District Heating, 9.36 GT. It may surprise some to learn that district heating was the most powerful buildings and cities solution.

31 Insulation, 8.27 GT. Insulation has long been touted as a great way to create jobs, improve wellbeing and save carbon emissions, It ranks highly as the number 2 buildings and cities solution.

33 LED Lighting – Household, 7.81 GT. LED lighting is another solution that people would be familiar with as a climate change solution. It ranks highly within buildings and cities at number 3.

42 Heat pumps, 5.04 GT. Heat pumps come in at the 4th most powerful climate change solution within buildings and cities.

44 LED lighting – Commercial, 5.04 GT. LED lighting for commercial purposes ranks slightly lower than its household counterpart, but is still a key solution within buildings and cities.

45 Building Automation 4.62 GT. This solution came in reasonably high in the buildings and cities section and in the top half. I would have thought it would rank higher, but that is not what the data says.

54 Walkable Cities 2.92 GT. This is what I liked about the Drawdown initiative, in that is shone a light on solutions that people may not have thought of, but that could have a powerful impact.

57 Smart Thermostats 2.62 GT. Again, like building automation, I would have thought this would have been higher, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

58 Landfill Methane 2.60 GT. Another surprising one to find in a top 100 most effective climate change solutions list, but this one only just missed out from making it inside the top 50.

59 Bike Infrastructure 2.31 GT. One that was probably expected to rank strongly comes in at number 59.

61 Smart Glass 2.19 GT. This is a very interesting solution, that could bring a great deal of change to the built environment.

71 Water Distribution 0.87 GT. This came in at number 71.

73 Green Roofs 0.77 GT. This is another solution that I expected to rank higher in the process, but is nonetheless an important part of a portfolio of solutions that are required.

Net Zero Buildings 79 and Retrofitting 80 included data from other solutions and so data was not available for these solutions individually. They are nonetheless important areas.

What you need to know

This article looked into the top buildings and cities solutions from Drawdown.

Some rank higher than you expect, some rank lower. Some things you never would have expected to rank are there and others you would have expected to are not.

This is why the Drawdown initiative is so important and why I promote it as much as I can. We have the technology now; we know what the solutions are now. What needs to happen is to deliver on these solutions at a global scale.

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about drawdown in the built environment?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

2040 Review

This article looks into the recently released docufilm 2040. If you haven’t already seen it, I encourage you to do so as it is a very good documentary on climate change. I have left a link to the trailer below.

I liked it for a number of reasons. Firstly, they packaged the documentary, which is about a complex scientific subject into a story. People have a natural affinity with stories. They make subject matter relatable and easier to remember. Those who seek to spread half truths and misinformation about climate change regularly use stories to further their agenda. It is only right that this is opposed by equally eloquent story telling by those who wish to promote action to reverse global warming.

Secondly, I liked that it was positive and optimistic. However bad the situation is, telling everyone how dreadful the situation is wont corral people into action. You have to tell people that the future will be much better than what we have now, that their lives will be far superior and that everyone will benefit when there is no longer environmental destruction taking place.

Thirdly, I Liked that they grounded most of the future scenarios in the research that Project Drawdown first released in 2017. I have been a big supporter of this initiative from the very moment I heard about it. It is important to quantify which solutions can reduce and store the most amount of greenhouse gasses in this critical 30-year period. To influence influential decision makers, these solutions need to be accompanied by financial data. Money talks, and it doesn’t matter how worthy you think your solution is, if you can’t back it up with figures, it will likely not get funded.

I think more people need to know about Project Drawdown and if they did, it’s impact could be transformational. I dedicated a whole section on my website to it and you can find a link to this below.

Project Drawdown

What you need to know

This article looked into the recently released docufilm 2040.

I thought it was a really good documentary that has the potential to have crossover appeal and pique the interests of mass audiences. This is no small feat for a documentary about climate change.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to engage mass audiences on climate change?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

P.S.

If you liked this article, please share it with your networks. Likewise, if you watch 2040 and you find it interesting, make an effort to tell your friends, family and co-workers about it. Word of mouth endorsements are incredibly powerful.

#36 Alternative Cement

This article looks into alternative cement as a climate change solution. It is based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative to map the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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The authors open their section with the following:

Today, concrete dominates the world’s construction materials and can be found in almost all infrastructure. Its basic recipe is simple: sand, crushed rock, water, and cement, all combined and hardened. Cement – a gray powder of lime, silica, aluminium, and iron – acts as the binder, coating and gluing the sand and rock together and enabling the remarkable stonelike material that results after curing.”

The authors go on to explain that:

Its use continues to grow – significantly faster than population – making cement one of the most used substances in the world by mass, second only to water.”

Let’s look at the numbers that allowed alternative cement to be ranked as the 36th most powerful solution to reverse global warming. The authors research revealed that alternative cement could reduce CO2 emissions by 6.69 gigatons, for a net cost of -$273.9 billion. They concluded that net savings were too indefinite to be modelled.

The authors highlight the hotspot that makes cement so carbon intensive when they reveal that:

Decarbonising limestone causes roughly 60 percent of the cement industry’s emissions. The rest are the result of energy use: manufacturing a single ton of cement requires the equivalent energy of burning four hundred pounds of coal.”

To produce one ton of cement results in nearly one ton of carbon emissions. This has seen cement alone account for 5-6% of the worlds carbon emissions. A significant segment that requires urgent action.

To address this, the authors propose the following:

More efficient cement kilns and alternative kiln fuels, such as perennial biomass, can help address the emissions from energy consumption.”

The authors go on to explain the following:

“To reduce emissions from the decarbonisation process, the crucial strategy is to change the composition of cement. Conventional clinker can be partially substituted for alternative materials that include volcanic ash, certain clays, finely ground limestone, and industrial waste products, namely blast furnace slag… and fly ash.”

The authors also point to UNEP research, which reveals that:

The average global rate of clinker substitution could realistically reach 40 percent (accounting for all alternative materials) and avoid up to 440 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

What you need to know

This article looked into alternative cement as a climate change solution. It was based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative to map the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

We looked at how vast concrete use has become worldwide.

We looked at how the decarbonisation process is a carbon hotspot for the cement industry. This can be addressed by changing the composition of cement.

Action is urgently needed to address carbon emissions coming from this industry.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about alternative cement?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

P.S

If you liked this article, please share it with your social media networks, it makes a really big difference.

BAMBOO AS A CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTION

This article looks into Bamboo as a climate change solution. It is based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative to map the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.

Alex Keda

In my series earlier in the year, I looked into each of the top 20 in turn. You can find a link to this series below.

Project Drawdown

Bamboo was not ranked high enough to make it into the top 20, but it was still ranked at a respectable 35.

The authors behind the Drawdown section on bamboo open with the following statement:

Bamboo rapidly sequesters carbon in biomass and soil, taking it out of the air faster than almost any other plant, and can thrive on inhospitable degraded lands.”

Let’s look into the numbers that allowed bamboo to be ranked as the 35th most effective climate change solution by Project Drawdown. Their research showed that bamboo could reduce CO2 emissions by 7.22 gigatons, for a net cost of $23.8 billion, but produce $234.8 billion in net savings. This makes it a powerful climate change solution that should not be overlooked.

The authors point towards the properties that make bamboo a special resource:

“Just a grass, bamboo has the compressive strength of concrete and the tensile strength of steel.”

Bamboo can become an invasive species if released into the wrong areas. The authors point towards this as well as its many positive features in their closing statement:

By focussing on commercial se on degraded lands, especially those with steep slopes or significant erosion, it is possible to maximise the positive impacts of bamboo – useful products, carbon sequestration and avoided emissions from alternative materials – while minimising the negatives.”

What you need to know

This article looked into bamboo as a climate change solution.

In 2017 Project Drawdown ranked bamboo as the 35th most effective solution to reverse global warming.

Bamboo is a resource that grows quickly and is an excellent storer of carbon.It is also strong and stiff, making it ideal for multiple uses in construction where it can displace non-renewable and high-carbon resources that are currently used.

It does present challenges with its invasiveness, but these can be overcome. The positives vastly outweigh the negatives and the future looks bright for this resource.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to raise the profile of this sustainable resource?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

 

 

 

#01 Refrigerant Management

This article looks into refrigerant management as a climate change solution. It is based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative to map the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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I have been really pleased with the way this 20-part series looking into the top 20 climate change solutions has gone. Whether you began reading at the beginning or joined part way through, your support is greatly appreciated.

We have finally arrived at the number one climate change solution. I remember when I first read Drawdown back in 2017, at first, I was surprised to see refrigerant management come in at number one. But then after reading the section and thinking about it, it totally makes sense. Many refrigerant gasses have a potency that makes their successful management key to efforts to reversing global warming.

The authors begin with the following helpful explanation:

Every refrigerator, supermarket case, and air conditioner contains chemical refrigerants that absorb and release heat, making it possible to chill food and keep buildings and vehicles cool.

The rise of refrigerants that cause global warming are closely tied to the demise of the refrigerants that depleted the ozone layer, as the authors explain:

Their replacement chemicals, primarily hydroflurocarbons (HFCs), have minimal deleterious effect on the ozone layer, but their capacity to warm the atmosphere is one thousand to nine thousand times greater than that of carbon dioxide.

Let’s look into the numbers that allowed refrigerant management to be ranked as the most powerful climate change solution by Project Drawdown. They estimate that refrigerant management could reduce CO2 emissions by 89.74 gigatons by 5050, for a net cost of $902.8 billion. This is certainly a massive solution.

The Kigali accord was a 2016 amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which dealt with ozone depleting substances. The new amendment is focussed on eliminating HFC’s, with targets for developed and developing countries. Much rests on the success of this initiative. As the authors explain:

“Scientists estimate the accord will reduce global warming by nearly one degree Fahrenheit”

The authors point towards the key step in the process where most emissions occur:

“Ninety percent of refrigerant emissions happen at end of life.”

The authors also highlight a tragic relationship between refrigeration and the environment:

“A great irony of global warming is that the means of keeping cool make warming worse.”

What you need to know

This article looked into refrigerant management as a climate change solution. It was based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.

What is clear, is that refrigeration as it currently stands is an activity that has the potential, if left unchecked to drive massive amounts of climate change between now and 2050.

However, management practices, both currently available and under development should mean that solutions are available to tackle a problem of this magnitude. The question, as with all environmental problems is whether we have the will and the organisational skills to make it happen.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of  refrigerant management as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

#02 Wind Turbines (Onshore)

This article looks into wind turbines as a climate change solution. It is based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative to map the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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This is a solution that many would have expected to rank well in the Drawdown analysis. But how many would have predicted that onshore wind would have been ranked as the 2nd most effective solution to address climate change? Interestingly offshore wind ranked 22nd on the list of Drawdown solutions.

This is certainly an interesting time for renewable energy. In a recent article in Grist that you can find here, they revealed that in the United States solar and wind power has quintupled in a decade.

In the recently released IEA World Energy Outlook, they revealed that wind energy is set to become the EU’s largest power source in the late 2020s, overtaking coal, nuclear & gas. On a global scale, they are modelling that wind power deployment will continue to grow rapidly, reaching 14% of global capacity by 2040, or around 1 700 GW. There is certainly a lot of momentum behind the renewable energy transition right now.

The authors behind Drawdown open their section with the following powerful statement:

Wind energy is at the crest of initiatives to address global warming in the coming three decades.”

Let’s look into the numbers that allowed offshore wind to be ranked as the second most effective solution by Project Drawdown. They calculate that an increase in onshore wind from 2.9 percent of world electricity use to 21.6 percent by 2050 could reduce CO2 emissions by 84.9 gigatons. This could be achieved for a net cost of $1.23 Trillion, but produce $7.4 Trillion in net savings. This is certainly a massive solution that could make a real difference to how successful we are at addressing climate change.

Harnessing the wind is anything but new, as the authors make clear:

Human beings have harnessed the power of wind for millennia, capturing breezes, gusts, and gales to send mariners and their cargo down rivers and across seas or to pump water and grind grain.”

Wind is a technology heavily dependent on geography, but in many places, it is formidable, as the authors make clear:

In many locales, wind is either competitive with or less expensive than coal-generated electricity.”

Wind farms can also operate alongside other land uses:

Grazing, farming, recreation, or conservation can happen simultaneously with power generation.

The scalability of wind technology is also highly impressive:

It takes one year or less to build a wind farm, quickly producing energy and a return on investment.”

Just like in other examples inside the top 20, perverse subsidies affect the energy sector, as the authors explain:

Outsize subsidies make fossil fuels look less expensive, obscuring wind power’s cost competitiveness, and they give fossil fuels an incumbent advantage, making investment more attractive.

The authors close with the following powerful statement:

For the world, the decision is simple. Invest in the future or in the past.”

What you need to know

This article looked into wind turbines as a climate change solution. It was based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.

The article made clear that onshore wind is an extremely powerful solution with the potential to revolutionise the energy sector and prevent massive amounts of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.

Its not a new technique, the wind has been harnessed for millennia. New innovations have seen significant quality improvements alongside falling costs for wind turbines.

However perverse subsidies continue to direct capital flows towards fossil fuels. A free market in energy would go a long way to unleashing the potential of wind power. It is already on its way to becoming the quickest to assemble and cheapest form of energy.

Overall, an effective response to climate change requires wind turbines in both their onshore and offshore varieties to play a significant role.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of wind turbines as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

#03 Reduced Food Waste

This article looks into reduced food waste as a climate change solution. It is based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative to map the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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Again, this is another mammoth climate change solution that a lot of people would not have expected to be in the top 3. But as we will see from the research that was carried out, it is one of the most important areas for action.

Food waste is especially problematic when we live in a world where many don’t have enough food to survive. The authors open with the following statement that:

A third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork.

This enormous mal-investment is also contributing significantly towards climate change, as the authors point out:

Ranked with countries, food would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases globally, just behind the United States and China.”

Let’s look into the numbers that allowed reduced food waste to be ranked as the third most effective climate change solution by Project Drawdown. Reduced food waste could reduce CO2 emissions by 70.53 gigatons by 2050. This is achieved by making a 50% cut in food waste, which achieved a 26.2 gigaton reduction. Whereas 44.4 gigatons is saved by a reduction in deforestation for additional farmland that occurs because of the reduction in food waste. Global cost and savings data was too variable to be determined. Regardless, this is certainly a powerful solution.

There is a fundamental difference in food waste between developed and developing countries, which the authors explain:

In places where income is low and infrastructure is weak, food loss is typically unintended and structural in nature – bad roads, lack of refrigeration or storage facilities, poor equipment or packaging, a challenging combination of heat and humidity. Wastage occurs earlier in the supply chain, rotting on farms or spoiling during storage or distribution.”

In regions of higher income, unintentional losses tend to be minimal; willful food waste dominates farther along the supply chain. Retailers reject food based on bumps, bruises, coloring – aesthetic objections of all sorts. Other times, they simply order or serve too much, lest they risk shortages or unhappy customers. Similarly, consumers spurn imperfect spuds in the produce section, overestimate how many meals they will cook in a week, toss out milk that has not gone bad, or forget about leftover lasagna in the back of the fridge. In too many places, kitchen efficiency has become a lost art.”

As we can see, what is driving food waste is fundamentally different in developed and developing countries. They will therefore also require different solutions.

In lower-income countries, improving infrastructure for storage, processing, and transportation is essential. That can be as simple as better storage bags, silos or crates.”

In higher-income regions, major interventions are needed at the retail and consumer levels. Most important is to pre-empt food waste before it happens, for greatest reduction of upstream emissions, followed by reallocation of unwanted food for human consumption or another reuse.”

There is a whole host of downstream solutions that are beginning to appear, where entrepreneurs are looking to create value from what was previously considered waste. The authors point these out, but highlight that they are not a panacea:

“From an emissions perspective, the most effective efforts are those that avert waste, rather than finding better uses for it after the fact.”

The authors close with an optimistic viewpoint:

Whether on the farm, near the fork, or somewhere in between, efforts to reduce food waste can address emissions and ease pressure on resources of all kinds, while enabling society more effectively to supply future food demand.”

What you need to know

This article looked into reduced food waste as a climate change solution. It was based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.

What is clear, is that reducing food waste globally has the potential to prevent massive amounts of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere.

Food waste, especially in developed countries is a symbol of a broader throw away culture, that means that these countries exert an outsized impact on the environment. This requires smart solutions and education to prevent this from happening.

Solutions for developing countries are less technological but no less important. International development assistance should be directed towards building up capacity in these countries to prevent food waste from occurring. This would have significant social and environmental benefits.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of reducing food waste as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby