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Ranking Carbon Reduction Solutions

It can be overwhelming to think about how to change our global way of living to reduce carbon emissions enough to combat global warming. It's hard to fathom that individual choices and habits will make a difference and it is too "convenient" to just wait for solutions and change to come rather than be the solution and source of change. And even if you are motivated to change, it's difficult to know where to start and which solutions will have the most impact.

There is an organization called Project Drawdown which has done the work to evaluate over 90 solutions and rank them according to their impact. This is found in their Table of Solutions. The solutions can be sorted between Scenario 1 which is roughly in line with 2˚C temperature rise by 2100 (1,051 gigaton CO2 reduction) and Scenario 2 is roughly in-line with 1.5˚C temperature rise at century’s end (1,637 gigaton CO2 reduction) . Here is a table of the Top 10 solutions based on Scenario 2.

There are some incredible findings when looking at this. First, some of the highest ranked items are in full control of each individual. This includes plant-rich diets, reducing food waste, clean cooking, and family planning. If each person started eating more vegetarian, consumed the food they bought, cooked with electricity instead of gas/grill, and limited their family size, on a global scale, that would reduce 350 gigatons of CO2 and result in 33% achievement of Scenario 1 and 21% of Scenario 2.

Second, initiatives that get all the attention and press like electric vehicles will barely have an impact. Yes, clean energy generation like wind turbines and solar are key to CO2 reduction. But EVs are #41 on the list. There are so many other initiatives that we should be focusing on as a world than EVs yet this one gets all the media attention. Maybe initiatives like regenerative farming, land management, refrigerant solutions, insulation, LED lighting, public transportation/carpooling, and recycling are a little too boring for the media. But these all will have a higher impact than EVs. EVs are a 0.5%-1% solution based on Project Drawdown's assumption of 20-33% EV adoption. 

Review Project Drawdown's list of solutions along with the underlying assumptions of the ones you're curious about. It'll become more clear that achieving "drawdown" where we sequester more carbon than we produce is totally achievable and within the power of each individual. It will also help humanity truly prioritize the initiatives to focus on. We don't have a lot of time and we need to focus our limited energy and resources on what will actually make a difference.