This Issue

If it’s happening, It’s possible

LO_Hawken_chair_ credit Raymond Baltar

Paul Hawken

Environmentalist, Entrepreneur, and Author

There is widespread belief that climate initiatives are either top-down or bottom up, when they in fact exist everywhere and in all areas of human endeavor. A meaningful global climate treaty and carbon pricing are needed but unlikely at the moment. Aside from political leadership, a growing movement within society addresses climate change and works to stop it before it is too late. Climate change is no longer a prediction, but a fact of life. What we can do together as practitioners, designers, manufacturers, architects, developers, builders, and citizens is the theme of the 13th annual Greenbuild Conference.

At the opening plenary, Tom Steyer will present “Project Drawdown.” In partnership with the USGBC and Steyer, scientists, NGOs, universities, colleges, students, foundations, elected officials, and government agencies are working together to create a book (and website) that details what it would take to achieve year-to-year CO2 reductions in the atmosphere within 30 years. Drawdown describes how we can reduce carbon in the atmosphere using solutions already in place—measuring the beneficial financial and ecological impact they deliver over this period. It is a mirror held up to the world, which reveals what we are doing about carbon and greenhouse gases today. The underlying precept of Drawdown is that if something is happening, it is possible.

Drawdown describes the full gamut of solutions, both practical and social, that either reduce carbon emissions to the atmosphere or bio-sequester greenhouse gases. This calculation has never been done. Bill McKibben penned the “Terrifying New Math” article in July 2012. It described what would happen to our cities, homes, farms, economy, and security if we do not take action on climate change. However, no one has done the math on what we are doing.

The climate debate today is similar to a decade ago. The science is robust and unequivocal, and most who grasp it are frightened by the predictions. Due to corporate and political disinformation, polls show that fewer people are interested in climate science than ten years ago. Climate-deniers make themselves look like optimists and brand activists as pessimists. In between, many Americans are still confused, but this is changing rapidly in the face of people’s experiences of floods, droughts, and heat.

The full range and impact of climate strategies have not been clearly explained and explored. Dr. Leon Clark, one of the lead authors of the International Planet Protection Convention 5th Assessment on solutions, writes, “We have the technologies, but we really have no sense of what it would take to deploy them at scale.”

Drawdown will be published in 12 countries and will be accessible on the web. It will provide impeccably researched information, open source models, and calculations on impact and cost that can inform government policy on all levels. A great number of these solutions involve the built environment. Whether new or existing stock, every building has a lifecycle of components that need replacing over predictable time frames, from carpets to fenestration to mechanicals. Burgeoning innovation in green building delineates clear pathways for retrofitting the 1.6 trillion square feet of buildings in the world.

We welcome those who wish to participate on the project as science or technical advisors, copy editors, readers, foundations, and company funders. This is our earth, our climate, and our responsibility. Please join us at and create the future.