As hopeless as solving the climate crisis can feel, solutions exist today. Realistic ones that wouldn’t be costly. In fact, they’d make us richer than if we continue to ignore the risks of the crisis.
A group of researchers compiled the 76 best ones on a list. The Drawdown Review, published Tuesday, offers details on how we can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures as well as 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Celsius), both thresholds put forth in the Paris Agreement. The report is an update to the group’s inaugural publication in 2017. As the market and science changes, so do the solutions the world needs to be considering to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
What’s clear in this report is that the world needs to reduce and ultimately replace fossil fuels with clean energy. Then, we need to protect and expand the planet’s natural carbon sinks. This includes all our tropical forests, such as the Amazon Rainforest, which has been facing increased deforestation.
Building onshore wind turbines, reducing food waste, and eating plant-rich diets are among the top 10 actions the world needs to to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But now of these or the 66 other solutions alone is enough to successfully solve the climate crisis. Their ability to work depends on every single other solution happening in tandem. The report points to the need to approach the climate emergency systemically.
“[There] is this idea that there is going to be one or two or five or 10 solutions or technologies that can somehow be invented and going to solve the climate emergency that we’re facing now,” Chad Frischmann, Project Drawdown’s vice president and research director, told Earther. “The reality is there’s no such thing as a silver bullet ... because there are too many areas of human activity that need to be addressed.”
That’s because our world is built on an empire of fossil fuel use. While renewables are the most obvious part of the solution to steer us away from dramatic climate change, they’re only one piece of the puzzle. Other solutions outlined in the report show we should do everything from redesign buildings and cities to updating the chemicals in refrigerators. The fixes aren’t waiting for us in some distant future. They’re readily available right now. Renewable energy is here; it just needs more investment. Plenty of people follow plant-based diets, but there are very few nudges to do so beyond individuals’ own morals or desires.
But there’s a benefit to all of us if we implement these suggestions: a livable future. In fact, Project Drawdown estimates using these 76 solutions alone, we can reach a moment when atmospheric carbon dioxide peaks as early as 2040. Aggressively pursuing these solutions would cost us between $23.4 to $26.2 trillion but would result in $96.4 to $143.5 trillion saved.
That’s, in part, due to healthcare savings from reduced air pollution that’s killing millions a year, but also from all the climate damage we’ll avoid if we can limit warming and all the hellish impacts that go with it. Solving climate change is expensive—because humans took too long to take action before it got this bad—but doing nothing will cost us even more.
The report isn’t meant to simplify the issue or claim that solving the climate crisis will be easy-peasy. The authors are quite clear about the magnitude of changes they’re proposing. Fossil fuels are so ingrained in so many people’s daily lives from the bacon they eat at breakfast to the pick-up they drive home at night.
And the fossil fuel industry is so enmeshed with policymakers that it’s tough to imagine a world where it allows any of this to actually happen. That’s why it’s up to us—the public—to demand more of our policymakers, forcing them to put forth policy that will encourage business interests to quit profiting off the climate crisis. Frischmann pointed to ending fossil fuel subsidies and imposing a carbon tax as examples.
Those might sound like obvious changes, but remember, the solutions are already here for the making. There are plenty of other unglamorous ones, too. I’m talking about energy efficiency improvements through insulation and protecting carbon sinks, such as peatlands, which often become victim to farming and fuel extraction. But we really do need to do it all to successfully fight the beast that is the climate crisis.