June 23, 2021

PRINCIPLES | Climate Solutions and Drawdown Down Under

PRINCIPLES |  Climate Solutions and Drawdown Down Under

ReGenOmics Down Under is a podcast by Leigh Baker of Balance3 exploring the wealth of climate solutions happening on the ground in Australia and New Zealand, as well as around the world.

This episode explores what the human race already knows about how to reverse global warming – starting with the commercial, scaling solutions modelled and ranked by the independent not-for-profit Project Drawdown in 2017 (and updated in 2020)

Project Drawdown’s findings include:

  1. We CAN reverse global warming – even if we just use the quantifiable, multi-benefit commercial solutions that WE ALREADY HAVE and are already scaling.
  2. NONE of the 80 solutions require further policy change from national governments (while it would help, all the solutions ARE  commercial and  ARE scaling)
  3. 79 of the solutions are multi-benefit solutions that make the world BETTER (the only harmful solution of significance was nuclear).
  4. The 80 solutions are WHOLE-OF-ECONOMY solutions that go way beyond electriciy generation and transport to include food, agriculture, construction, education, health and materials.
  5. The high-potential new solutions that they didn’t have numbers for are likely to be every bit as powerful and even more regenerative than what we have now.

The list of 80 commercial, quantified Drawdown solutions can a bit overwhelming, and each one only gets 2 pages of explanation. 

So in this episode we dive in to a couple and see how they’re happening in Australia, with examples from two past Climactic episodes.

  • Tropical forest regeneration
  • Insulation

Forest regeneration ranked #5 and #12 on the original Drawdown top 80.   And here’s an example of what a small group of concerned Australian researchers created, told by Jess Panegyres from The Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network

Insulation ranked #21 on the original Drawdown list. We explore the action that one Perth insulation installer began back while Drawdown was still doing their modelling.

Drawdown only modelled solutions where they could find a robust, peer-reviewed data sets – so there are many, many more powerful, existing solutions that aren’t  that well-measured yet – from vortex water processing to cellulose-based building materials.  

So it’s more useful to think of Drawdown as a guide book of highlights rather than a definitive encyclopedia.

We live in a world where most of the mainstream media coverage on climate action is focused on either:

  1. high-level action where big government and big business do big things; OR
  2. low-level actions about consumers using less or spending more on expensive alternatives.

That’s barely beginning of the story.  Those two themes like the pastry layers on a vanilla slice – necessary, but not the main event.  There’s actually a wealth of accessible action when you get out and start looking for problems that need solving and the opportunities they create.

Solving the challenges we face has created a quiet design revolution –  the development of systems and processes that regenerate communities and ecosystems.   It’s a whole lot easier to see the best, multi-benefit solutions when you understand the straightforward principles regenerative design.  

Re-gen-omics Down Under explores the solutions happening and the thinking behind them – so if you’re interested in solutions, learn to find your action opportunities and listen to your gut. 

Paul Hawken, founder of Project Drawdown, speaking on Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOTLtrt6OIE

Key pages from Project Drawdown's website (where their open-source finding are published):

The Climactic Live episode BZE - Fight for Planet A Panel for the forest regeneration story  https://www.climactic.fm/show/climactic/climactic-live-bze-fight-for-planet-a-panel/

The full Clean State podcast on The Insulation Revolution with Stephen King https://www.climactic.fm/show/clean-state/the-insulation-revolution-the-simple-social-enterprise-model-inspiring-a-state-with-stephen-king/ 

Original music and audio editing by Ian Hopkinson, Human Hacker and serial digital entrepreneur.


Paul Hawken  0:00  
We would want to do these, they have so many benefits in terms of jobs, prosperity or children, clean water, clean air, it goes on and on and on. So this idea that we have to do these things, you know, to fix the climate, you know, is really not the way to look at it. We need to do these things to transform our civilization and our relationships to each other and the place we live. 

Leigh Baker  0:40  
Hello, and welcome to regenomics down under, where we explore the wealth of climate solutions happening on the ground in Australia and around the world. I'm your host, Leigh Baker, a supply chain consultant turned regenerative business blogger and podcaster. This show is all about happening climate solutions. And in this first episode, we're exploring the evidence based commercial solutions that have been modeled and ranked by project drawdown with some help from its founder climate solution as Paul Hawken.

Paul Hawken  1:22  
What drawdown is, is solutions, but what we did basically is hold up a mirror to the world and saying, This is what you know, this is what we know. And this is what we're doing.

Leigh Baker  1:34  
While it's not evident in the mainstream media. Hundreds of climate solutions are happening all around the world. There are millions of people busy working on smarter, safer, fairer systems. Some are inside government, but many more are ordinary people fixing their bit of the world. 

We've actually known about global warming for a while now. The first scientific warnings about the risks of climate change caused by burning fossil fuels date back to the 1860s. In the modern era, climate change was in the news in the New York Times back in 1956. Through the 60s and the 70s increasing concerns were raised on climate and other environmental issues. One thing that happened was the formation of a group of Concerned Scientists and thinkers called the Club of Rome, who wrote a report called the limits to growth in 1972. Concern about this environment thing got more serious and more organized throughout the 1970s and 80s. And in 1988, the International Panel on Climate Change was established. Over the years there's been an increasing amount of research into the cause of the problems. The IPCC has millions of data points behind their research. 

At the same time, the world's innovators and entrepreneurs have been building solutions from renewable energy to regenerative agriculture. What's been missing has been a plan A quantified analysis of the full spectrum of existing actionable solutions. That changed in 2017 with the publication of the first project drawdown report in my assessment, project drawdown is one of the most important climate studies ever done. Because it quantifies and models the full spectrum of existing scaling commercial solutions, many of which are seriously surprising. Everyone who wants global warming salt should know about drawdown especially just how rigorous it is, and why it's such a strong foundation for action. drawdown will be an ongoing reference point throughout this podcast series, both the solutions and quantifies and the principles behind them. 

Project drawdown started in 2014 when environmental entrepreneur and science communicator Paul Hawken, along with fellow change agent Amanda Ravensworth founded project drawdown to answer a specific question, what would it take to get to a point where year on year our systems drawdown greenhouse gases from the atmosphere? Here is Paul Hawken talking about how project drawdown started

Paul Hawken  4:59  
in 2013 The reason drawdown started even though I had thought about it for many years and asked other Institute's to do, what am I going to describe, none of them could wanted to. But in 2013, McKibben wrote a piece in Rolling Stone called Global warming's terrifying new math. And I had many friends who were literate, active, effective, with respect to climate, who came to me and use the same word over and over again, which is it's game over in other words,  We lost it, we blew it. And I had a different response to that, which I felt like sometimes when you give up and surrender, it's Game on. I think it's game on actually not game over. 

What happened is drawdown started in 2014, to map, measure and model the 100 most substantive solutions to reversing global warming. And the first thing I wanted to do was named the goal. If we don't name the goal, we're not going to achieve it. mitigation is not a goal fighting is not a goal. A crusade is not a goal combating tackling these verbs that are used are not goals. What's the goal? The goal is to reverse global warming to reverse emissions. So let's name it. The second thing is can we achieve it? 

And what we did by mapping measuring and modeling the most substantive solutions is something that never been done. In 45 years, global warming has been definitely in the public sphere. No one's ever done it. No MIT, no Harvard, no Princeton, no Stanford, no UN, no IPCC, no one's ever done it. Why? That's an anthropological question. I have no idea. So we had no money I had received $100,000, from an Italian philanthropist to write a book, not this one. And so I gave it to a new fledgling NGO, US project drawdown. And since we had no money to hire scientists, we put out the word all around the world for drawdown fellows, and we were overwhelmed with applications. These people are from 22 countries, six continents, and they basically wrote master's thesis on each solution, and then use the vector model that we developed. 

So what I want you to take from this is that we were a collaborative, it wasn't somebody knowing or doing and saying what they think - it was a group of us coming together and saying, what do we know? You know, can we learn together? Can we discover something that hasn't been brought forth, which is what it is, we know, actually. So the solutions we modeled are extant. They exist. We know how to do them, we are doing them. 

We have data, everything we modeled, we use peer reviewed data, if it wasn't peer reviewed, we didn't model it. We had economic data from the most respected economic institutions in the world, ie a the World Bank, IPCC, Bloomberg energy. So what drawdown is is solutions, but what we did basically is hold up a mirror to the world and saying, This is what you know, this is what we know. And this is what we're doing. This isn't a message of, we're not doing something you ought to do this, you know, don't you feel bad about it? You're an individual, what are you doing? There's no guilt tripping, right.

And so, drawdown took a very different approach to climate communication. We put in it, you know, these solutions, but we never advocated, we never said should art need to, you know, that was for you to make a decision. We told stories, we brought it out. You know, we never use fear threat Doom, we never finger pointed, we never demonize, we never said somebody is bad or wrong, it was a very different approach to communication, 

What you see is the rank of the solution, you will see how much co2 or co2 equivalent is reduced. Every solution was scaling. And we continue to scale it until 2050. That was our assumptive method. And we did it against the business as usual scenarios of the World Bank and the IPCC. And so they have actually baked in solar and wind and so forth. And so this is basically projecting these solutions out over time. This is when the number two solution, and you can see the net savings over 30 years $7.43 trillion is gone way up since 2017 when this book was published. So again, when you look at these solutions, what happened when we did the math because that's what we did. We did math, we just read the literature and did the math. The math is math is that diverse ways in which we can work together to this is extraordinary because it's the system to create the problem is the system that heals it and cures the problem. 

And it just underlines one of these important point, these solutions are no regret solutions except for one, which is nuclear. And that is to say we would want to do them if there wasn't a climate scientists alive and we were clueless as to what causes extreme weather, we would want to do these, they have so many benefits in terms of jobs, prosperity, or children, clean water, clean air, it goes on and on and on. So this idea that we have to do these things, you know, to fix the climate, you know, is really not the way to look at it. We need to do these things to transform our civilization and our relationships to each other and the place we live.

Ian Hopkinson  10:43  
You're listening to regional mixed down with Leigh Baker.

Leigh Baker  10:53  
So that's the story of the first drawdown report published in 2017. It's an ongoing project with the drawdown 2020 Review produced last March. Here's a summary of what drawdown fpull our fingers out. Secondly, none of the top 80 commercial solutions require further policy change from any national government in order for these solutions to happen. After all, they are commercial and scaling. As Paul Hawken said, 79 of those solutions are multi benefit solutions that make the world better anyway, the only harmful transition solution was nuclear. Thirdly, those solutions cover the whole of the economy are about much more than just renewable energy and transport. They include food, farming, construction, education, health and manufacturing. Which means there's a role for anyone who wants to play. 

More excitingly, the high potential new solutions that don't yet have peer reviewed data sets are looking likely to be every bit as powerful and even more regenerative than those we already have. So here now today, we know how to solve global warming. And we don't have to wait for government anymore. And there's far more interesting stuff to do than just use less, and lobby your MP. Here's Paul Hawken, again, giving a brief introduction to the breadth of the drawdown solution set.

Paul Hawken  13:05  
What surprised us we had no idea. If we had made a list of what the top solutions were, we would have been just like Al Gore. You know, when solar solar wind who knows you know, EV's for sure. But that's not what happened. Food came out the number one sector who knew food, what are they talking about why? Food is 24% of the emissions just like transport, the two of them are the two top sectors in terms of emissions. But food can do something in land use in regenerative agriculture, and managed grazing and so forth, it can sequester carbon. So it's a twofer. That's why it's number one. electrical generation is number two, but you combined land use, which is pretty much all our food except for plant rich diet and food waste. I mean, it's extraordinary what we can do with biological systems. 

But what surprised us was number one, and we were so disappointed if we wanted something really sexy and it was refrigerant management or no refrigerant management, but it's true. It's, you know, 7,8,9 thousand times more powerful than co2 is the gases in our air conditioners and refrigerators. They're just going up all the time from bad maintenance, and also from recycling in the developing world who throw them away and they recycle. up they go. 

And this is also what surprised us. This little cutie pie -  this is educating girls. and educating girls is their number six, because if you yank a girl out of school, which is often done in other countries to go to work for her brother or early marriage, usually one of the two, for cultural reasons, religious reasons. She has a very different life and she makes very different choices because she actually doesn't make many of those choices. They're made for her. If she's allowed to go to school and high school. matriculate, she has an average of two children, the one yanked out of school has an average of five plus children. And the one who has two children has more education, better income, she takes better care for children, they're better off, they're healthier, they repeat their mother's behavior. 

What you have here is family planning, but it's not family planning from the top down. It's from the empowerment and you combine that with family planning the traditional way, which is clinics all over. And I don't just mean Africa, I mean, Alabama to and South Central for women so they can support their reproductive health and well being you put those two together, number six and seven. The difference is the UN high and median population number in 2050. That's all it is. And the UN says it's due to family planning. And you put the two together in the number one solution to reversing global warming is the empowerment of girls and women. That's number one. 

And again, why don't we hear that? Why do we keep hearing solar wind? Again, very important, but the idea is somehow there's a technical fix out there. Yes, there is. But that's not the whole picture. And basically, what you're seeing here is all the solutions It's the system the caused the problem - it's the system, the heals it, In other words, its everything. There's no such thing as a small solution. You know, you're all important. 

Ian Hopkinson  16:26  
You're listening to Regenomics Down Under

Leigh Baker  16:35  
The list of at commercial quantified drawdown solutions can be a bit overwhelming. And in the book, and the open source of results, each one can only have a page or two of explanation. So knowing the names of them may not give you a detailed picture of how they're happening on the ground. Let's look at a couple of them and what they look like in real life in Australia. We're going to talk about two examples. The first is forest regeneration. On the initial drawdown list, tropical forest regeneration ranked number five wild temperate forest regeneration came in at number 12. And we have a combined example happening in Queensland. 

We'll also look at insulation, which came in on the original list at number 31. Both solutions are examples of what small groups of concerned Australian citizens created. Here's the first one on forest regeneration, told by Jess Panegyres from the Australian environmental grantmakers network, 

Jess Panegyres  17:55  
we got Reputex, which is a carbon firm, so model the amount of land carbon that you could save if you ended land clearing and put some money into carbon sequestration. And the numbers were pretty staggering. If you just end land clearing alone and invest $5 billion. In sequestration, you can save up to 850 million tonnes of carbon by 2030. If you do that in a way that's good for biodiversity, you can start to restore wildlife habitat, you can create jobs for traditional owners and local communities and landholders. 

And in fact, forgive slightly personal story that in 2017, my colleague Glen Walker and I decided, we looked at this modeling and we thought we want to see this come to life. How do we do it? And so we spent six months going and talking to land carbon experts around the country, including professor will Steffen and we came up with this idea for a land restoration fund, where basically governments would pay for by diverse lens, the frustration that was also good for communities. 

We pitched the idea to the Queensland Government. We talked to the Aboriginal carbon fund, they liked it, the Queensland Government likes it. They committed to it as part of their 2017 election commitment. And I'm really pleased to say that last week, the first tranche of funding for that program went out and there's now $93,000,000 and 680 jobs being created in projects that store carbon protects wildlife habitat and good for the reef. 

Leigh Baker  19:31  
So this is a seriously cool story. Three concerned citizens with a particular knowledge base focused on a particular problem and created a solution a solution to good for their state government to refuse. So now, insulation, over in PERS, probably around the same time that drawdown was doing their modeling and insulation installer was tackling a problem that he found in his industry in his state.

Stephen King  20:09  
I'm Stephen King from Australian Insulation Foundation , my small business Ausking Insulation or just starting out, and there was quite a big problem with the insulation industry at that point that gave insulation a bit of a stigma. Everybody was just going mad using electricity, especially new aircons were coming out in the market. It seemed just to change people's therories  from instead of good insulation, let's just get a bigger icon. And that made it very difficult for us. But I was actually getting quite a lot of phone calls from social housing tenants requesting insulation, and that made me think what's going on here? How's this happening? Why are these tenants calling me? Why isn't the Department of Housing or social housing providing such basic needs to these tenants. 

And once I started digging around finding out why this was the case, I was actually quite alarmed of the neglect that social housing tenants were having to deal with. Such simple and basic needs of thermal insulation on its own, we had to try and find a way to help social housing tenants. And then one night, it was very late, it just popped into my head. Why don't I just you know, for the installation or install for homeowners, why not just say $1 per square meter funds for installation for social housing. And remarkably, it worked. 

And it brought in a lot of business for the foundation, it improved my financial status as well, I was actually able to create an income for myself. insulation is such a simple thing as an addition to a household to make all the difference . Out of all your building fabric. insulation is the thing that really makes the difference, youe can have a multimillion dollar home. And if it's got no insulation, then it's unbearable to live in. And it's noise pollution, an aircon on all day, it was just a no brainer. 

I think one of the major impacts that we've had on people's lives is just comfort within their own home. It's less stress, less mental stress, less physical stress, better air quality in the home by removing the old blowing insulation, and reduction of mold, it takes away the bad issues. Now you're living with the quality. And not only the quality, but the fact that you know that every time you don't have to turn on a heater or an air con, you're doing something for the environment, and you're reducing your own expenditure. 

insulation, simple is such a no brainer. It makes all the difference. It will reduce hospital visits, it will improve health, it will improve the environment, and he will improve the hip pocket. So we'll put more money back into the community. And that allows people to buy better food, better clothing and more clothing. And it just goes on and on. And on the benefits of such a simple thing I mean, the four to six hours it takes us to do the job. And then life is improved. 

So in Australia, there aren't many ways to offset your carbon footprint. But there's so many other ways you can reduce carbon footprint Insulation is a massive one, or 1.8. tonne from each household is reduced from the reduction of heating and cooling costs per year. And as well as saving of $600. So if you've got 50,000 social housing properties, if every one of them was insulated, and the savings are 1.8 tons per year, then you're looking at 90,000 tons per year of reduction of co2. And that's astonishing considering that our co2 levels for housing sits at 11%. 

You don't look to somebody else to do it, you do it yourself. And if you can't do it yourself, then find like minded people to help you with your journey. Even if you spend whatever time you can to help an organization or to help a person move slightly forward to reach their goals and their dreams and ambitions. And obviously, if it improves people's lives then just doing

Leigh Baker  24:14  
so that's an example of the drawdown solution insulation being done on the ground in Australia by an ordinary guy in an ordinary business. solving a problem that makes a whole lot of things better for social housing tenants in Western Australia seriously cool.

That's a couple of the existing commercial drawdown solutions and there are a whole lot more. Some of them use really modern technology - the latest in solar and wind - while others are reapplying ancient wisdom adapted for today's world. solutions like biochar. Many involves systems changes, like our Aussie examples, not smart, new technology. in the show notes for this episode, we'll include links to some introductory drawdown videos along with their open source solution list . So if you're interested, you can get started today on exploring your options. 

Drawdown isn't the whole answer. I think of it more like a Lonely Planet guidebook - for everything that's in the guidebook,  There's more. When you get out there on the ground and start looking, there's a whole lot of stuff that just isn't measured. Often, what's measured, isn't peer reviewed. Some of the tech is so new, there are no numbers yet. Other ancient solutions have just never been quantified. But they're being done. 

So when you see a news story that tells you that what we need to solve climate is big action from big government. Smile. When you see a news story, that's all about small low level action, that means you have to use less, or you have to spend more on the proper stuff. Smile, because those two storylines, like the pastry layers of a vanilla slice necessary, but not the good stuff. 

Once you start looking, there's a whole wealth of accessible action in the systems that we use every day. It's like traveling, you go out, you go to a place, and you look at what's there. And you don't need to travel very far, which is just as well during COVID. You can start locally, looking for the problems that need solving where you are - the ecosystems that need regenerating the communities that need restoration, and find ways to make those problems an opportunity. 

Yes, we face big problems. Yes, damage has been done. However, we have solutions. In regenomics down under, we're exploring solutions that are already happening and the design thinking behind them. So if you're over being told what the government should be doing, and how you should stop using stuff, follow the podcast, read the show notes, explore project drawdown. There are fascinating solutions. And the people who are out there doing them are pretty awesome to hang out with too.  project drawdown is a good start. So we'll finish with a final word from Paul Hawken.

Paul Hawken  28:08  
If I tell you what you should do, you should run. Okay, because that's bullshit. And the thing you should do is what lights you up. The thing you should do is where you get turned on, and you can be sure if you're not doing something else, somebody else's.

Leigh Baker  28:24  
Thanks for joining us on regenomics down under. We hope you enjoyed hearing about the project drawdown modeling as much as we did, putting this episode together. And thanks to sister show's  Clean Sstate and Climatic for allowing us to share their local examples. Don't forget to check the show notes for links to the drawdown modeling results and to some awesome videos. 

Regenomics down under is brought to you by the climactic collective, the podcast network by and for Australia's climate community. My name is Leigh Baker, and I've been your host today. I'd love to hear your feedback, especially any stories you have on the climate solutions happening on the ground in your region. 

You can give the show a rating and review and we'd really appreciate it if you did from our website climactic.fm. Just click on leave a review or find us on podchaser.com which is the IMDb for podcasts. 

This is the first episode of region omics down under it's an ongoing series about the happening climate solutions that you might be part of. If you enjoyed it, follow the show. There's also a wealth of other climate content, you can find at climactic.fm 

The climactic collective is home to many other shows and we will welcome new members. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, just get in touch at hello@climactic.fm and you can find and follow us on social media where we are @climacticshow Here's to making the 2020s a decade of action on climate solutions. Keep active in these climactic times.