Statewide Climate Solutions Powered by Georgia Tech Research Debut
By Michael Pearson
Drawdown Georgia, the statewide effort powered by research from the Georgia Institute of Technology and other universities to find cost-effective ways to drastically cut the state’s carbon footprint, publicly rolls out its top 20 solutions this week.
Led by noted energy and climate policy expert Marilyn Brown, Regents and Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems in the School of Public Policy, the cross-campus research team identified solutions that could, based on existing science, cut the state’s CO2 emissions by one-third by 2030.
“Our work shows Georgia already has the necessary tools to reduce its carbon emissions by a third in the next ten years, and do it in a way that does not harm the economy,” Brown said. “These proposals actually can pay for themselves and create a healthier, more prosperous state.”
“In fact, adopting these goals can put Georgia on a path to sustainably meeting the climate goals presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Paris Accord,” she said.
The findings, and the science behind them, will be the subject of a webinar on Wednesday hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology. The event is free and open to the campus community.
Brown worked for more than a year alongside faculty members across Georgia Tech, as well as Emory University, the University of Georgia, and Georgia State University to research and develop 20 recommendations in five high-impact areas: electricity, buildings and materials, food and agriculture, transportation, and the land.
Their proposals include increasing solar and electric vehicle capacity, retrofitting buildings to be more energy-efficient, reducing food waste, and growing more forests to soak up carbon emissions.
The team also integrated considerations such as equity, economic growth, and public health.
“One of the key co-benefits of these solutions is in air quality improvements that, for example, will help to reduce the chance that our kids will have allergies and asthma," said Beril Toktay, Brady Family Chair in Management and professor in the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business in the Scheller College of Business.
Michael Oxman, a co-lead of the beyond carbon working group, said the team designed solutions that will be good for all Georgians.
"We want to ensure that these solutions create benefits for all but perhaps especially for under-resourced populations that are most vulnerable to climate change impacts," said Oxman, who is managing director of the Ray C. Anderson Center and professor of the practice in the Scheller College of Business.
Each proposal had to meet four criteria. It had to be technologically and market ready for Georgia. The state had to have sufficient local experience and data to implement them. They had to remove at least one megaton of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere per year. Finally, they had to be cost-effective.
Many of the proposals will pay for themselves, according to the team’s research. Such recommendations include reducing food waste, boosting rooftop solar, and cogeneration – the simultaneous generation of electricity and thermal energy for heating or cooling.
The research team will further refine the 20 solutions to a list of five high-priority action items. Those will be featured in a statewide campaign by Drawdown Georgia to encourage businesses, private sector groups, and residents to work together to put the state on the path to a zero-emissions economy by 2040.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Tech team’s work is not done. Brown already has begun planning a dashboard that will help each of Georgia’s 159 counties, and their residents, to track progress on key parameters. An early version of the dashboard could be available by next summer, Brown said.
Also, the Scheller College of Business will take the lead in corporate engagement efforts to bring business on board to support the goals.
This week’s rollout features a series of events, from an opening night celebration on Saturday to a series of civic dinners. The campaign plans to engage Georgia residents in citizen science and action on climate change.
Drawdown Georgia is based on Project Drawdown, founded by environmentalist and author Paul Hawken. That project seeks to reach “drawdown,” the point at which levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere start to decline, as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible.
The Georgia effort is the first in the country to adopt the Project Drawdown model. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation is funding the project, including the research at Georgia Tech and other universities.
In addition to Brown, other Georgia Tech researchers involved in the work include Daniel Matisoff from the School of Public Policy, Kim Cobb of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Mike Rodgers from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rich Simmons in Mechanical Engineering and the Strategic Energy Institute, and Laura Taylor, chair and professor in the School of Economics.
To view the full list of solutions, visit the Drawdown Georgia website at https://www.drawdownga.org/