Summary of solutions to global warming by overall rank, from the "Drawdown" study by Paul Hawken. A combination of educating girls and family planning, which together could reduce 120 gigatons of CO2-equivalent by 2050, more than on- and offshore wind power combined (99 GT). Graphic: Paul Hawken

By David Roberts
10 May 2017

(Vox) – By now, the looming dangers of climate change are clear to anyone who’s been paying attention, covered extensively in both academic literature and the popular press.

But what about solutions?

For all the hand-wringing on climate change over the years, discussion of solutions remains puzzlingly anemic and fractured. A few high-profile approaches, mainly around renewable energy and electric cars, dominate discussion and modeling. But there’s been no real way for ordinary people to get an understanding of what they can do and what impact it can have. There remains no single, comprehensive, reliable compendium of carbon-reduction solutions across sectors.

At least until now.

It seems Paul Hawken got tired of waiting.

Hawken is a legend in environmental circles. Since the early 1980s, he has been starting green businesses, writing books on ecological commerce (President Bill Clinton called Hawken’s Natural Capitalism one of the five most important books in the world), consulting with businesses and governments, speaking to civic groups, and collecting honorary doctorates (six so far).

A few years ago, he set out to pull together the careful coverage of solutions that had so long been lacking. With the help of a little funding, he and a team of several dozen research fellows set out to “map, measure, and model” the 100 most substantive solutions to climate change, using only peer-reviewed research.

The result, released last month, is called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. […]

The number one solution, in terms of potential impact? A combination of educating girls and family planning, which together could reduce 120 gigatons of CO2-equivalent by 2050 — more than on- and offshore wind power combined (99 GT). […]

David Roberts: How do you put numbers on that?

Paul Hawken: We took the numbers from other agencies — from World Bank, WHO, IPCC. What they are is the delta between the median high population projections of the UN in 2050 and that reduction alone. There are so many ancillary benefits and impacts of 1.1 billion less people, though.

David Roberts: But it is the 1.1 billion fewer people that is doing the carbon work?

Paul Hawken: Yeah, absolutely.

David Roberts: Are there other benign ways of influencing population growth that you considered? [more]

A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising.

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