We often speak of methods and technologies we can employ as a society to curb climate change, either by reducing carbon emissions or through other means.
But less frequently do we talk about them in real terms, including how much excess carbon these methods and technologies can pratically remove from the atmosphere.
That's where Drawdown, a climate action plan detailing 80 different possibilities, comes into play.
Based on a book of the same name, the Drawdown website is a venerable resource that takes a holistic approach to climate-change research and presents it in an easy-to-read format.
While the book details 100 different items, the website only shows 80 actions and technologies we can employ.
"In some cases, after fully modeling proposed solutions, they were removed from the list because the data showed that our initial assessment was wrong. In the end, we arrived at 80 of the most substantive solutions in the book," says the website FAQ.
China’s all-electric cargo ship will deliver coal to powerplants. China News/Peng Yonggui
What 80 solutions remained? And where do electric cars and other transportation solutions rank in their overall effects by 2050?
The number one solution is one we likely don't think about day-to-day: refrigerant management.
HFCs, which are the primary refrigerant replacement of ozone-depleting CFCs and HCFCs, have between 1,000 and 9,000 times the greenhouse impact of carbon dioxide.
"Over 30 years, containing 87 percent of refrigerants likely to be released could avoid emissions equivalent to 89.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide," explains the Drawdown website.
Surprisingly, all transport solutions rank lower on the list than you might expect.
In order, they are:
#26: Electric vehicles
#32: Transport ships
#37: Mass transit
#40: Transport trucks
#49: Cars (hybridization)
#66: High-speed rail
#69: Electric bikes
Airbus CityAirbus rendering
By making all these modes of transport more efficient and green, we can save a combined 45.78 gigatons of carbon dioxide (or equivalents) from entering the atmosphere by 2050—or about half of what we save from properly recycling refrigerants.
Two other things we could do with more impact would be to educate girls and provide contraception to those who can't afford it in poorer countries.
Those two solutions would save 59.6 gigatons of cardon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, still 14 gigatons more than reworking our entire global transportation system.
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