Danielle Larrabee
Danielle Larrabee
October 15, 2019

Finding Real Climate Solutions: An Interview with Chad Frischmann from Project Drawdown

Danielle Larrabee
Danielle Larrabee

Can we stop global warming in the next 30 years? According to the team at Project Drawdown, the answer is yes. We can keep the temperature of the Earth from rising past the critical mark of 1.5 degrees Celsius by drawing down carbon out of the atmosphere and beginning the process of reversing global warming.

As part of CannonDesign’s Environmental Awareness Week, we have asked Chad Frishman to talk to our offices about Project Drawdown and its 100 identified solutions. When implemented systemically, these solutions could realistically keep us from catastrophe, and at the same time create the world we all want to live in. With his global team of researchers, Chad Frischmann carefully mapped and detailed 80 solutions that are already up and running around the world, and they modeled how these solutions might be scaled up over the next 30 years. The team also evaluated the potential of 20 “coming attractions” – future innovations that will accelerate progress even faster. The researchers assessed the financial and climate impact of solutions when implemented at scale by all levels of agency, from investors to city planners, business leaders to educators, and NGOs to individuals.

Taken together, these solutions provide a roadmap for the future we want by solving the climate emergency and ushering in a new way of doing business.

Here are a few questions we asked Chad in preparation for his talk today.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be a leading member of Project Drawdown?

For the past ten years, I have worked at the nexus between human rights, local and indigenous people’s well-being, environmental conservation, and sustainable development. These are the frontline issues that will be most affected by the changing climate, which led me to focus my work on how to solve the climate emergency and promote a new regenerative system that benefits all.

Before entering environmental and development fields, my research focused on how art, language, and material culture influenced the creation, transformation, and continuation of political and economic institutions. Language, art, and other forms of communication play an essential role on conveying messages and stories that can inspire and empower new ways of thinking. At Project Drawdown, we seek to change the discourse of the climate crisis from one of fear, confusion, and conflict to solutions, possibilities, and opportunities to create the future we want.

Can you explain Project Drawdown? What is your mission and what are your goals?

Project Drawdown is becoming one of the world’s leading sources of knowledge on viable climate solutions. It is a living research and communications organization that assesses the potential implementation, climate impacts, and financial costs and savings of solutions to achieve drawdown and begin the process of reversing global warming. It is an international collaborative effort of individuals and organizations together creating a model to enable action through rigorous, data-driven tools designed to be useful and meaningful to on-the-ground decision-makers. Our common mission is to do our part in solving global warming by enabling a new, regenerative system that has cascading benefits to human well-being in concert with nature while training the next generation of global citizens and thought-leaders.

As Research Director, take us through a typical day of your work.

My typical day revolves around meeting lots of brilliant people and working through a range of issues, from defining solutions, tweaking models, rethinking approaches, bringing in new data, and creating tools for decision-makers.

Based on your research, what are the top five most effective climate solutions to determine if, when, and how the world can reach the pivotal “drawdown” where atmospheric greenhouse gases begin to decline on a year-to-year basis?

I get asked this question a lot, and it is fair enough. We did create a ranked list of solutions. However, what can I say? Am I more inspired by solutions like distributed solar and wind that provide access to electricity to households that are using kerosene for cooking and lighting? Or plant-rich diets and reducing food waste that can result in enough food and sustenance for the world’s population? Silvopasture, regenerative agriculture, or tropical tree staple crops that restore soil health and productivity, benefit smallholders and large farming operations, and bring carbon back to the land? Or educating girls and family planning which shows how addressing gender equity can have cascading benefits to the planet? Similarly by recognizing and respecting the dignity of indigenous peoples and their tenure right to their traditional lands, shows that justice and human rights are solutions to global warming?

No, I cannot say that I have a favorite solution. What inspires me, honestly, is the system transformation that can occur when we implement these solutions together. What inspires me is the system of solutions that benefit all.

What is one thing that keeps you up at night in terms of climate change?

Humanity is brilliant. There is no doubt about that. At times, humanity is also really dumb. What keeps me up at night is the prospect of the potential brilliance of a regenerative future might be prevented because we did not move faster and farther than we know we need to.

What is one thing that keeps you optimistic about the future?

Again, humanity is brilliant. Period. We have real, workable solutions that exist today. Humanity can and will awaken. Greta Thunberg and the growing mass of young people will see to that.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy hiking amongst the redwoods and surfing along the coast.