Our Research Approach
Project Drawdown is a living research and communications organization that assesses, maps, models, and describes the potential of the most substantive solutions to achieve drawdown by 2050.
It is a collaborative effort of over 200 researchers, policymakers, businesses, thought leaders, and organizations developing a model to enable action and implementation throughout the world. Our common mission is to do our part in solving global warming, by enabling a new, regenerative ‘business-as-usual’ that has cascading benefits to human well-being in concert with nature, while training the next generation of global citizens and thought-leaders.
Project Drawdown defines and describes existing social, ecological, and technological solutions that reduce and sequester greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere. It aims to provide a detailed, thoroughly researched description of solutions, their potential climate impact, and the financial returns they will have assuming vigorous increases in their adoption.
While there are many global systems models that evaluate possible mitigation pathways, few have a bottom-up, solutions-orientated approach. Fewer still, have a comprehensive approach by including land use solutions, arguably the only way to sequester carbon from the atmosphere with confidence. To achieve our aim in way that would be meaningful to many levels of agency, Project Drawdown developed its own systems model to evaluate solutions that could be used by decision makers at all scales.
Solutions included in the project follow three parallel mechanisms:
(1) REDUCING energy use through efficiency, material reduction, and resource productivity;
(2) REPLACING existing energy sources with low carbon renewable energy; and,
(3) BIOSEQUESTERING carbon in our soils and plants by bio-sequestering carbon through photosynthesis, promoted by innovative farming, grazing, and forest practices.
Project Drawdown brings all three paths together to evaluate their collective impact over a thirty-year timeframe. Through a combination of these three mechanisms, drawdown is achievable.
Solutions are also organized according to agency and sector level, starting with what individuals can do and sequencing in order of scale:
Individuals and Households
Buildings and Facilities Owners
Businesses and Investors
Utilities and Industries
Cities and Communities
Land Managers and Farmers
Agency refers to the level of decision making at different scales. The adoption of any solution depends on individuals choosing to invest their resources into different technologies and practices. Whether an individual home-owner deciding on installing a solar water heater, a commercial building owner weighing the costs and benefits of a green roof, an investor providing capital for wind power, a city planner justifying expanding public transportation options, or a farmer deciding what to plant this season – the aim of this research is to represent relevant solutions to all sectors of society.
Sectors are determined based on common markets, variables, and interaction effects. Project Drawdown currently evaluates the following seven sectors:
Materials and Waste
Women and Girls
Information gathered, and data collected are used to develop solution-specific models that evaluate the potential financial and emission-reduction impacts of each solution when adopted globally from 2020 to 2050. Models compare a Reference Scenario, with 1) a Plausible scenario assuming a realistically vigorous global adoption path; 2) a Drawdown Scenario in which adoption is optimized to achieve drawdown by 2050; and 3) an Optimum Scenario in which solutions achieve their maximum potential, fully replacing conventional technologies and practices within a limited, competitive market. In doing so, the results reflect the full impact of the solution, i.e. the total 30-year impact of adoption when scaled beyond the solution’s current status.
All solution-specific models are combined through integration models within and across sectors, ensuring that interaction effects, double counting, and reasonable rebound effects are accounted for. Results show the combined cumulative and year-by-year impacts of solutions under the three scenarios to determine if and when drawdown is possible.