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How a Comprehensive Plan to Combat Climate Change Came Together

In April of 2017, Paul Hawken in collaboration with over 200 climate researchers and experts published a new book, Project Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. At first, Paul Hawken did not like the bombastic nature of the title, but the truth was that this was the most comprehensive plan because there were no other plans to reverse global warming published yet. This book would be the first climate change related New York Times Bestseller in decades and had a radical new goal and story for climate change, backed up by over 5,000 research references.

Project Drawdown was not supposed to be hopeful.

The purpose of Project Drawdown was to explore if “drawdown”, or the reversal of climate change was possible. When Hawken and his colleagues started putting mathematical models together to identify the impact and cost of different solutions to global warming, they had no intent to create a hopeful narrative. They could not have known, they did not get the final data for this project until weeks or a month before publishing their book. In the end, they outlined 80 existing solutions and 20 potential solutions being developed for the future. 

What the project showed was that we had solutions, solutions at scale that had significant impacts on climate change and that drawdown though difficult was possible.

Project Drawdown brought new answers we did not have.

After getting the results from all the researchers who put together Drawdown’s plan Paul chatted with a climate expert who had been in the field for decades. He had a simple question: what are the five best solutions for climate change? The climate expert (who Hawken respectfully did not name) twiddled his thumbs and slowly put together five solutions. In this exercise, Paul showed two things. One - that even the most seasoned climate experts did not have these answers. And two - that even the climate experts don’t know the answers because he was completely wrong. 

As recently as 2017, our climate experts did not have the data that Hawken and his 200 climate expert colleagues had put together. For three years, a dedicated team of climate leaders worked together to put together conservative environmental impact calculations and financial cost projections to get the full picture. I would say that it was only with the partnership of 200 experts that such a picture could be put together. 

Our guide for a path to climate change reversal.

When Hawken released Drawdown, he provided a comprehensive data-backed guide to reverse climate change, but he also gave us all a more meaningful goal to work towards. The communication previously was about mitigating, or slowing down an inevitable disaster. In Hawken’s conversation with McNally, they joked that this was like telling a soccer team to try to get a tie in a game. Something no soccer team could get behind. 

A great goal is one focused on winning and with this exceptional set up solution, Hawken proposed that we shoot to reverse climate change not mitigate it. And in this work, Hawken and his many collaborators showed that this was possible.

“Thank you for reading - this article should help show why the Oco Crew makes sure that all projects we support, align with Project Drawdown. To fund climate work aligned with Project Drawdown learn more about our approach or check out our contribution page."

Cheers, Ben Sterne

Sources - this article is written from a knowledge of reading Drawdown itself and this exceptional podcast with Terrance McNally: Drawdown Podcast: Paul Hawken with Terrance McNally

See a table of the most impactful solutions here: Drawdown Table of Solutions