290: A Systems view of the Climate Crisis (and Coronavirus) with Jonathan Foley, Project Drawdown
Project Drawdown has one clear goal: “Drawdown,” the point when greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere start to decline.
The world is, rightly, focused on the current pandemic. However, Dr. Jonathan Foley of Project Drawdown invites us to look at the bigger pattern.
“The world’s attention is focused on this pandemic, as it should be,” Foley says. “But we have to remember that there is an underlying pattern to these kinds of events. For examples, we’ve had more severe storms, floods, droughts, and more fires in the last few decades because of climate change. That doesn’t mean we only deal with those individual events. We must look at those events, and the bigger picture that is causing them to occur more frequently.
“The same thing with infectious disease. In the last thirty to forty years, we’ve seen so many new diseases ripping through the human population.
“Many of these diseases come out of our broken ecosystem. They are zoonotic diseases, diseases that jump from animals to people. And that comes from bad agriculture and tearing down ecosystems. Things that normally lay dormant jump into our populations. So, keep our eyes on the long term. We can stop this coronavirus, but we’re going to have another one in a few years if we don’t stop the underlying cause.
“Just like climate change, we can’t just look at one fire. We must look at the pattern of what’s happening. We can’t just look at coronavirus and forget that a lot of these new diseases are becoming common because of our destruction of the world’s ecosystems.”
Dr. Jonathan Foley is a climate and environmental scientist. His work is focused on understanding our changing planet, and finding new solutions to sustain the climate, ecosystems, and natural resources we all depend on. He is the Executive Director of Project Drawdown.
About Project Drawdown
Project Drawdown is a nonprofit organization that seeks to help the world reach “Drawdown”— the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline.
In 2017, the organization published the New York Times bestseller, Drawdown. Since then, the organization has emerged as a leading resource for information and insight about climate solutions.
Today, Project Drawdown conducts rigorous review and assessment of climate solutions. They communicate those solutions to accelerate global change.
The Drawdown Framework
Project Drawdown works on all aspects of the climate equation.
- Stop the sources of greenhouse gas pollution.
- Support and enhance the sinks of greenhouse gasses found in nature
- Help society achieve broader transformations
These three connected areas require action. The solutions listed on the Project Drawdown website are categorized by Sources, Sinks, and Society.
Sources of Greenhouse Gasses
Heat-trapping greenhouse gases come from six major areas:
25% – electricity production
24% – food, agriculture, and land use
21% – industry
14% – transportation
6% – buildings
10% – other energy-related emissions
Sinks to Reduce Greenhouse Gasses
Nature has a way of absorbing and storing carbon. These are called carbon sinks. Most of greenhouse gases stay airborne, but not all. Natural biological and chemical processes trap some of the excess greenhouse gasses in plants, soil, or the sea. While 59% of heat-trapping emissions stay in the atmosphere, 24% are removed by plants on land and 17% by oceans.
A Just and Equitable Transition to a Clean Energy Future
The climate crisis is a social justice crisis. By focusing on communities that have most been harmed by the climate crisis, these communities become part of the solution.