From fairplay to climate wars: making climate change scenarios more dynamic, creative, and integrative


Understanding possible climate futures that include carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and solar radiation modification (SRM) requires thinking not just about staying within the remaining carbon budget, but also about politics and people. However, despite growing interest in CDR and SRM, scenarios focused on these potential responses to climate change tend to exclude feedbacks between social and climate systems (a criticism applicable to climate change scenarios more generally). We adapted the Manoa Mash-Up method to generate scenarios for CDR and SRM that were more integrative, creative, and dynamic.

The method was modified to identify important branching points in which different choices in how to respond to climate change (feedbacks between climate and social dynamics) lead to a plurality of climate futures. An interdisciplinary group of participants imagined distant futures in which SRM or CDR develop into a major social-environmental force. Groups received other "seeds" of change, such as Universal Basic Income or China's Belt and Road Initiative, and surprises, such as permafrost collapse that grew to influence the course of events to 2100. Groups developed narratives describing pathways to the future and identified bifurcation points to generate families of branching scenarios. Four climate-social dynamics were identified: motivation to mitigate, moral hazard, social unrest, and trust in institutions. These dynamics could orient toward better or worse outcomes with SRM and CDR deployment (and mitigation and adaptation responses more generally) but are typically excluded from existing climate change scenarios. The importance of these dynamics could be tested through the inclusion of social-environmental feedbacks into integrated assessment models (IAM) exploring climate futures.

We offer a step-by-step guide to the modified Manoa Mash-up method to generate more integrative, creative, and dynamic scenarios; reflect on broader implications of using this method for generating more dynamic scenarios for climate change research and policy; and provide examples of using the scenarios in climate policy communication, including a choose-your-own adventure game called Survive the Century, which was played by over 15,000 people in the first 2 weeks of launching.


Link to centre authors: Pereira, Laura
Publication info: Pereira, L.M., Morrow, D.R., Aquila, V., Beckage, B., Beckbesinger, S., Beukes, L., Buck, H.J., Carlson, C.J., Geden, O., Jones, A.P., Keller, D.P., Mach, K.J., Mashigo, M., Moreno-Cruz, J.B., Visioni, D., Nicholson, S. & Trisos, C.H. 2021. From fairplay to climate wars: making climate change scenarios more dynamic, creative, and integrative. Ecology and Society 26(4), 30.