Inaugural Reunions Fantasy Decarbonization Draft

Sept. 1, 2020

During this year’s virtual Reunions, a group of Princeton students and alumni came together over Zoom for the first ever Reunions Fantasy Decarbonization Draft, hosted by the Class of 2017. In groups of two, alumni - who spanned almost 60 years of graduating classes - selected technologies and policies in the style of a fantasy sports draft. The goal: assemble a roster of climate solutions to rapidly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the course of five rounds, the teams selected solutions that covered the whole gamut of decarbonization tools. Policy proposals came off the board early, with alumni engaging in a lighthearted debate over the merits of a carbon tax versus global cap and auction system. One team focused heavily on food, drafting both plant-based diets and eliminating food waste, while another assembled an efficiency powerhouse, including strict building efficiency standards and allowing utilities to earn a return on energy efficiency upgrades. 

Selections that received widespread group praise included expanding access to education, tropical rainforest restoration, and onshore wind. These all rank highly on Project Drawdown’s list of climate solutions. By the last round, all conventional strategy was thrown out the window as teams opted for creative solutions ranging from nuclear fusion to ending global consumerism.

Once all the selections were made, the participants (plus a handful of observers) ranked all 5 teams according to which would be most effective in rapidly reducing emissions. Voters were encouraged to consider other factors, including cost-effectiveness as well as health and equity co-benefits. 

After the votes were tallied, the dynamic duo of Claire Wayner ‘22 and Austin deButts ‘16 emerged victorious. Winning teammate Austin commented, “The Reunions Fantasy Decarbonization Draft was a quintessentially Princeton experience. Bringing together generations of Princetonians to think critically and creatively about addressing our generation's greatest existential threat--with some friendly competition thrown in--was truly in the spirit of Old Nassau."

As their prize, each winner chose a climate organization to receive a $50 donation on their behalf. Like their draft picks, these selections did not disappoint: Austin chose GRID Alternatives, which installs low-to-no cost solar arrays for low-income families and provides workforce development training for solar energy jobs. Claire chose Rainforest Action Network (RAN), a nonprofit that both prevents deforestation and works with indigenous communities to protect their rights.

Claire said of her choice, “Deforestation doesn't get nearly enough attention with regards to the amount of carbon it releases per year. Preserving tropical forests is one of the top solutions to global warming, according to Project Drawdown, and I think more conversations about climate change need to start incorporating habitat protection and restoration in addition to renewable energy. Many indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable right now during the COVID-19 pandemic and need better access to healthcare, so RAN is focusing a lot of their efforts on helping provide that access and support."

All participants displayed an incredible depth of expertise and creativity in explaining their selections. Besides encouraging a little friendly competition, the event was a great opportunity for participants to meet other Princetonians passionate about climate solutions. Look out for the second annual Fantasy Decarbonization Draft at next year’s Reunions!

Graham Turk ‘17 contributed reporting for this story