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Drawdown Georgia shows 50% reduction in carbon emissions possible by 2030

By David Pendered

The Drawdown Georgia research team has released its first study and results are stunning. Georgia could reduce climate-warming carbon emissions by 50% by applying known solutions in a holistic fashion.

Georgia Tech has installed a solar array at the Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Lab. Credit: Georgia Tech

Georgia could curb carbon emissions by 50% in 2030, compared to 2005 levels, if the state adopted 20 solutions previously identified by Drawdown Georgia scientists. This is according to the abstract of the research article published July 26, “A framework for localizing global climate solutions and their carbon reduction potential.”

One significant aspect of the model is that it could be adapted to fit other states, counties and even cities. Previously, solutions at a subnational level were difficult to assess because data is at the global or national levels. The new model localizes the framework of abatement plans that exist on a larger geography, according to the abstract of the peer-reviewed article, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

These big-picture data sets exist as the backbone of the Paris Agreement, the international treaty on climate change adopted in 2015. Each nation is to establish a Nationally Determined Contribution to reduce global warming, and each NDC is based on a national data set. The next round of climate discussions is set to begin Oct. 31 in Glasgow. The U.S. intends to send John Kerry, President Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate, whose prepared remarks July 20 in London said the U.S. has rejoined the climate change discussion:

John Kerry

  • “After our absence for four years, my friends, we approach this challenge with humility, but – let me be clear – we approach it with ambition.  … [A] new American President is boldly moving to make up for lost time, and this is an important demarcation moment to assess where we all stand with the time that we have left to get the job done.”

Marilyn Brown led the team of Drawdown Georgia scientists assembled from Georgia Tech, University of Georgia and Emory University to produce the analysis. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation funded the project. Brown is internationally renown, and serves as Regents Professor and Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems in Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy.

Brown observed in a statement:

Marilyn Brown, of Georgia Tech, led the Drawdown Georgia research team that created a localized carbon solution applicable in Georgia and other local areas. Credit: Georgia Tech

  • “This analysis validates the viability of the Drawdown Georgia roadmap and shows how the state, its businesses, and its people can benefit by being trailblazers.”

The roadmap is described on a portal as “aspirational, but also realistic. And it is attentive to the needs of Georgia’s resource-constrained communities.” The research portal displays research papers, past and present. The main website provides information about the project and includes a call to action.

Drawdown Georgia was established in October 2020 with a mission of, “Reducing Georgia’s carbon footprint in beneficial and equitable ways.” To an earlier working group of academic partners, including Brown, it has added influencers including the Rev. Gerald Durley; Roy Richards, of Southwire; Nathaniel Smith, of Partnership for Southern Equity; and Katharine Wilkinson, of The All We Can Save Project.

This wheel shows interactions among various solutions to carbon emissions. Credit: pnas.org

In addition to Brown’s comment about trailblazers, she offered this optimistic outlook in her statement:

  • “Georgia can show the rest of the country how to scale key regional solutions that reduce carbon footprints in a way that is also friendly to the economy. These solutions also advance the public health, as well as equity in under-resourced communities.”

Brown’s second point is addressed partly in the holistic, or synergetic, approach. For a carbon reduction plan to work, it has to fulfill multiple objectives.

The two panels show ‘the achievable and technical abatement potential of 20 high-impact solutions for Georgia.’ Credit: pnas.org

This starts with simply adding up carbon reductions achieved by means such as electric vehicles, sustainable buildings, reduced food waste and so forth. The analysis compiles each of these measures and considers how one saving may offset another. Then other considerations have to be added, including concerns of society and equity.

Electric vehicles are one example cited in the abstract.

Charging EVs with power produced by coal-burning power plants won’t reduce overall carbon emissions. Charging EVs with solar power is a step in the right direction. But more can be done, in order to have a social as well as environmental impact:

  • “Operating EVs with electricity from solar charging stations located in the retail centers of historically marginalized communities would enable ultralow emissions mobility that also creates local jobs.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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