August 5, 2019

Introducing students to Drawdown actions and solutions

Posted by Laura Guertin

Summer 2019 was a busy one for me. I was a part of the Penn State University Drawdown Scholars Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program, mentoring one of the 55 student researchers from across the United States looking at ways to get us closer to reaching “drawdown”.

Drawdown is the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and then start to steadily decline, ultimately reversing global warming — from Project Drawdown

My next post will highlight the activities of my Drawdown Scholar for these past eight weeks. But one of the important outcomes for both my research student and myself – there are too many scientists and non-scientists that are not familiar with the term “drawdown” as applied to climate science. As this blog focuses on geoscience education, I’d like to call attention to how instructors may want to introduce their students to Project Drawdown and their solutions.

For starters, Project Drawdown is a non-partisan research and communication organization that has developed 100 solutions to reverse global warming. The solutions are broken down into overarching sectors: Electricity Generation, Food, Women and Girls, Buildings and Cities, Land Use, Transport, Materials and Waste, and the newest sector Ocean. Eighty of the solutions presented online and in the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming already exist and are scaling to become competitive alternatives for being economically viable, proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon dioxide, and having the potential to spread throughout the world. Having students do a quick scan of these solutions would allow them to connect with ones they are familiar with (reducing food waste, wind turbines, etc.) and learn about some others they may not realize are solutions and perhaps even occurring locally (silvopasture, landfill methane, bioplastic, etc.).

The 100 solutions to reverse global warming are summarized in this TED Talk by Mr. Chad Frischmann, Vice President & Research Director at Project Drawdown. Drawdown’s Dr. Katharine Wilkinson also has a TED Talk on How Empowering Women and Girls Can Help Stop Global Warming.

In addition to reading about or viewing the solutions online, students can take their own actions through participation in the Drawdown EcoChallenge. For three weeks in April each year, school teams compete to earn points by taking actions that reach solutions to reverse global warming. The information is listed online year-round, which allows individuals and schools to form their own challenges throughout the year. These challenges not only educate students on existing solutions but actively engages them in playing a role and having hope instead of focusing on the “doom and gloom” of global warming.

If you are encouraging your students to listen to podcasts, you may want them to check out The Drawdown Agenda, featuring researchers, scientists, policy makers and others working towards the Drawdown solutions. Keep an eye out for the curriculum templates currently being developed jointly between Project Drawdown and the National Council for Science and the Environment (description of Drawdown/NCSE collaboration)

If you are interested in learning more, there are conferences you can attend. The first international conference on Drawdown is being held at Penn State University September 16-18, 2019. The Research to Action: The Science of Drawdown conference will have panels exploring each of the Drawdown sectors, and poster submissions for research or artistic displays are being accepted until August 15. Over a weekend in October 2019, the Drawdown Learn 2019 conference is taking place to address what schools and communities can do about climate change (I look forward to participating virtually and am thankful for this option). There is a summary of the Drawdown Learn 2018 conference posted online by partner Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI).

In the end, we should do our part to have students engage in conversations and learning about climate change. After all, as Dr. Katharine Hayhoe says in this TED Talk, “The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: talk about it” – and we have an amazing opportunity to do just this in our classrooms and across our campus community. In addition to talking about the changing climate, let’s have those conversations about actions we can take to slow and reverse that change.

Previous blog posts that address discussing Earth science hope and optimism with students and the public: