Book Review: Drawdown

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawkin

As the subtitle claims, this is truly a comprehensive plan to reverse global warming. The book provides 100 scenarios to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or sequester carbon. The upfront costs and ultimate cost savings of changing behavior are also analyzed. Each strategy is based on global data. Sixty-one research scientists across the globe with expertise in environmental issues collaborated on the solutions. The narrative of each of the scenarios is only 2-3 pages with illustrative photos included with each article. All are accessibly written for the lay reader.

An example of a scenario is farmland restoration. A study from Stanford University suggests there are approximately one billion acres of land abandoned globally. Ninety-nine percent of this desertion occurred in the last century. Restorative practices such as perma-gardening, which integrates water saving, soil fertility, and companion planting, can result in active restoration of the land. Such approaches require funding and are labor intensive if done on a large scale, but the overall effectiveness of farmland restoration is huge. It would increase carbon sequestration by gigatons and produce additionally billion of tons of food.

Nuclear energy is ranked 20th in effectiveness out of the 100 strategies. However, it is alone in being categorized as having “regrets”; the other strategies are listed as “no regrets.” While producing nuclear energy leads to a decrease in carbon impact, it also introduces a risk of tritium release, abandoned uranium mines, mine-tailing pollution, the challenge of disposing spent nuclear waste, illicit plutonium trafficking, and the need to guard nuclear waste for thousands of years.

While our current situation is traumatic to think about, the book is hopeful. Each environmental problem is exposed but combined with solutions.