Creating Scenarios for Climate Stabilization?

“The paradox is that if you really want to change how people act, don’t ask them to come to a meeting on action,” said Adam Kahane during the presentation of a proposed scenarios dialogue process aiming to develop answers to the question: Who would have to do what by when, in order to stabilize the earth’s climate?

At first glance, inviting people to develop answers to the question – Who would have to do what by when, in order to stabilize the earth’s climate? – might appear to be inviting people to a meeting on action. But what Adam and colleague Earl Saxon are proposing is not a space in which people commit to action. They propose an exploration. They propose exploring a number of “possible concrete courses of actions by different sectors and countries that would, in aggregate, achieve climate stabilization, together with an analysis of the costs, benefits, tradeoffs and challenges for different actors in each scenario.”

Since the early 1990’s, Adam Kahane has been using scenarios for open and in-depth dialogue among diverse, influential and committed leaders. He has learned that “it is possible for all the people who are part of a mess to sit together and find a peaceful way forward.” And he has learned that this is facilitated by the creation of spaces for off-the-record exchanges away from formal decision-making processes, in which people can try to put political agendas aside and talk, listen and think differently with one-another. For Adam, this is an incredibly powerful part of generating the “will to act” – the challenge of achieving which is so often massively underestimated.

Whilst formal channels (such as the IPCC and UNFCCC) have their role in generating the will to act to address climate change, how powerfully might they be complemented by parallel, generative dialogue processes which ask leaders to explore future scenarios which stretch imaginations, challenge ideas of what is possible and develop shared understanding of options? How might other processes in which we are involved benefit from a similar approach? And how should we invite participants for greatest success?

2 replies
  1. Gillian
    Gillian says:

    This is a really interesting post about scenario building for climate change, it reminds me of the IPCC Global Scenarios work that was done to develop the four global futures scenarios (on emissions) which were also called the SRES scenarios. Here is a link on the IPCC webpage which gives a good synopsis on this:

    I think this is an interesting new generation of scenarios for climate change. The SRES scenarios were more extrapolative, in that they looked at differences and possible changes in global population, economic growth, and technology, and then they developed four scenarios and storylines which showed very different futures (called A1, A2, B1 and B2)One of these was called “Great Transitions”, and the Tellus Institute (formerly with the Stockholm Environment Institute) has developed a whole movement based on their book by that name, written by Paul Raskin and colleagues.

    These scenarios that Adam is working on are different in that they are looking at one future, and different pathways to get there. As I understand, the goal is to achieve a world with a stablised climate, and his the team will explore different pathways (the pains and the gains) to get there. So it is a more normative approach to “this is what we want” and here are some ways to get there (rather than, this is what we are doing, or could do, and where does it get us.)

    Both are interesting approaches to scenario use, and hopefully together they will help people imagine both the impacts of our choices, and how we get to the choice we prefer.

  2. Frits Hesselink
    Frits Hesselink says:

    Is this something for CEC to elaborate on in a workshop during WCC and invite Kahane and or Raskin? When we link it to a special case, e.g. environmental security – we could may trigger some real impact. I am curious what Keith thinks about this!

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