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Final report from Futures CoLab– a scenario development exercise from ClimateWorks Foundation, MIT CCI, & Future Earth– released today

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It is impossible to predict what the world will be like in 2050, but it is possible to shape that world.

It was with this in mind that the ClimateWorks Foundation teamed up with Futures CoLab, a collaboration between Future Earth and the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence–the home of Climate CoLab–to conduct an interactive scenario development exercise. The goal of the exercise was to explore the socio-economic, political, and technological developments that could impact climate action strategies over the next 30 years, identifying blind spots and gaps in current thinking. The exercise brought together over 150 experts from 38 countries to engage in facilitated dialogue using an online platform over a four-week period this past summer.

The final report coming out of this exercise is now publicly available: “Broadening the Dialogue: Exploring Alternative Futures to Inform Climate Action.

Better understanding some of the forces which could drive the world in different directions helps to inform the perspective of people working on climate action–including philanthropists, governmental actors, private sector decision-makers, academics, and those working in civil society. The approach pioneered by Futures CoLab provides a variety of focal points for discussions about climate action strategies, which can be compelling to different types of actors and organizations.

Similar to Climate CoLab, the Futures CoLab platform and process explore the larger context in which climate mitigation takes place. It opens up qualitative scenario development to a diversity of expert participants from all over the world, making it as easy as possible for people from different walks of life to log on and interact asynchronously.

One of the major outcomes of the online exercise were the scenarios themselves, which emerged as participants collaborated on the platform.

Four out of the five resulting scenarios are unpacked in the report released today.These are:

  1.     Hollowed Out, which describes a world characterized by extreme inequality, where power is concentrated with a small group that controls global systems and platforms.
  2.     National Rivals, which depicts a future where protectionist policies dominate and hostility between nation states, especially over resources, abounds.
  3.     Connected Communities and Cities, which is a world where decentralized, local leadership is increasingly important, though tensions between urban and rural areas and inequalities within cities persist.
  4.     Consumers in Charge, which describes a future controlled largely by corporations and the consumers they serve, leading to tensions between a push for material consumption and a push for sustainability.

Learn more here: https://www.climateworks.org/alternative-futures-report

Text developed by Jennifer Garard, Science Officer & Futures CoLab Program Coordinator, Future Earth