Conference Vision

NCSE Drawdown 2021 Conference

NCSE Drawdown 2021 Conference:
Research to Action: Science and Solutions for a Planet Under Pressure

The NCSE Drawdown 2021 Conference combines the NCSE Annual Conference and the Second International Drawdown Conference. Together NCSE and Project Drawdown bring our synergistic missions under one cohesive umbrella: to improve the scientific basis of environmental decision-making and to help the world reach “drawdown”—the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline, thereby stopping catastrophic climate change—as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible. With this joint conference, we will grow and weave together diverse communities of more than 1,000 scientists, researchers, decision-makers, innovators, entrepreneurs, industry, and public sector leaders to enhance a global movement founded on the use and application of science to address global complex environmental challenges. In these unprecedented times, we stand stronger together.

The event is scheduled for five days, between January 5–9, 2021. The first half (January 5–7) will be facilitated by NCSE and will focus on the physical and social realities of climate change and the way this impacts people, ecosystems, markets, and the places people live. The latter half (January 7–9) will be facilitated by Project Drawdown with an objective to share the latest knowledge on climate solutions, and their effective communication and implementation to bring research to action. 

Project Drawdown and NCSE will bring people together from across the globe to share and expand on the latest solutions to the world’s most pressing global challenges. Through intentional virtual conference design, NCSE Drawdown 2021 will offer numerous opportunities for networking, collaborations, and actions for building a pathway to a future with a shared vision for sustainability and regeneration informed by an enduring foundation of science.

Conference Objectives

The key objectives of the NCSE Drawdown 2021 conference are to help participants:

  • Understand the realities of a changing climate and the impact of systemic change. 
  • Evaluate real solutions and explore potential implementation pathways to advance them.
  • Advance the application of science to address global complex environmental challenges. 
  • Explore the co-benefits to human and planetary well-being that climate solutions provide.
  • Inspire collaboration between the diverse communities of scientists, researchers, decision-makers, innovators, and leaders that NCSE and Project Drawdown will bring together. 
  • Foster collective impact through actions and tool-building for local to global efforts to accelerate solution implementation with exploration, inclusiveness, urgency, and equity at its heart. 

Conference Outcomes

  • Convene, connect, and engage diverse participants to make connections, build partnerships, and work collaboratively toward solutions. 
  • Foster cross-disciplinary and innovative discussions about the interactions of intensifying heat, water scarcity, and impaired water quality on a host of integrated systems.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of Drawdown solutions and how they work as a system to address global warming and learn how these solutions offer additional co-benefits to people and the planet. 
  • Explore actions for ways they can advance the implementation of climate solutions within their sphere of influence.
  • Share a new solutions-oriented narrative to address global warming through meaningful partnerships between scientists, businesses, policy makers, civil society organizations, and engaged citizens.
  • Join ongoing efforts on the Drawdown Global Collaborative & Knowledge Platform.


January 5–7: NCSE

From Research to Action: Heat, Water, Systems, and Solutions

images showing flooding, dry earth, rainfall, and sun

NCSE will lead content on January 5–7 and will focus on the physical and social realities of climate change and the way this impacts people, ecosystems, markets, and the places people live.

We are living in the era of superlatives. All of the hottest years on record have occurred within the past five years. The planet is witnessing extreme drought and extreme rainfall, rising seas and sinking land, and warming oceans and shifting fish stocks. Migration, water scarcity, displacement, food insecurity, and uncertaintythese are the social and economic consequences of a global ecosystem under pressure.

The first half of NCSE Drawdown 2021 will take a systems-approach to heat and water during this time of changeーexamining both impacts and solutions. The sessions will explore the links between the changes in Earth’s physical systems and its social institutions. 

Human ingenuity and innovation, supported by effective government leadership, policies, and governance, are foundational to confronting these unprecedented environmental and social challenges. NCSE Drawdown 2021 will highlight how science can lead the way through transdisciplinary and boundary-spanning approaches that will ensure informed decision-making and durable policiesーfrom harnessing the power of big data to driving solutions at local scales to the leading edges of social science to understand and integrate the human dimension of environmental change.

How are the pressures of extreme heat changing where people live and how they work? 

How are water scarcity and rising temperatures altering what crops can thrive, which will have ripple effects for the whole global food system?

How will markets respond to new challenges and to innovation at the leading edge of change? 

How can we incorporate changing ecological systems into social and political institutions?

How is the pandemic amplifying the impact of environmental stressors, transforming the higher education landscape, and influencing the role of science in environmental decision-making?

Priority Focus Areas

Logo with icons representing heat, water, systems and solutions, and social and ecological sciencesHeat
  • Heat impacts—from infrastructure to food systems to health and demography
  • Heat adaptation strategies (physical, social, and behavioral)
  • Heat impacts on emergent disease and social vulnerability (e.g., COVID-19)
  • Water scarcity and impacts on food production, human habitation, wildlife, and ecosystems
  • Big data and transboundary water collaboration; water rights and indigenous access
  • Water quality, environmental change, and public health
  • Flooding, glacier melt, and sea level rise
  • Emergent technologies and best practices in water system management
Systems and Solutions
  • Harnessing the power of big data
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence
  • Integrated approaches to complex systems, including links between environment and public health.
  • International treaties and transboundary science diplomacy
  • Navigating shifting resources through science and innovation in regional and local governments
Social and Ecological Sciences
  • Incorporating changing ecological systems into social decisions (ecosystem services)
  • Political institutions adapting to changing ecological conditions
  • Thresholds, and adaptive capacity—managing ecological and social transitions
  • Equity, access, and the environment
COVID-19 in Context
  • Pandemic as a threat multiplier (e.g., COVID-19’s interaction with heat and other stressors)
  • Transformation of the teaching and research landscape across higher education, such as innovations in teaching STEM remotely
  • Environmental health and sustainability in a pandemic and post-pandemic world (including food, water, economy, etc.)
  • Human-environment interactions in a post-COVID-19 era, integrating social and ecological sciences


January 7–9: Project Drawdown

Project Drawdown will lead the latter half of the conference with an objective to share the latest knowledge on climate solutions, and their effective communication and implementation to bring research to action. Each day will have a specific focus:

  • January 7: From Research to Action: Naming the Future We Want

  • January 8: From Research to Action: Solutions for People and Planet

  • January 9: From Research to Action: Creating the Future We Choose