Tackling climate change effectively is one of the world’s most complex challenges. In this new report co-authored by RSA Social Brain Centre Director, Dr Jonathan Rowson and Dr Adam Corner, they investigate new ways to think, talk and act on climate change, and identify seven critical dimensions that we must address.
“Einstein said everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler. So what’s the right kind of simple for the world’s most complex challenge?
In this discussion document, produced to provoke feedback ahead of a final report later this year, we argue that climate change is best understood as a challenge with seven dimensions:
In Science we need a new social contract between scientists and society; moving away from a hands off view of just giving the facts towards deeper engagement with communication and policy.
With Behaviour we need to face up to ‘stealth denial‘ – the fact that the majority of those who understand the problem intellectually don’t live as though they do.
From Technology we need deep decarbonisation at scale – we need more and better tools to decarbonise energy, and as quickly as possible.
Our Democracy needs to overcome the governance trap – people expect the government to act but government thinks people don’t care about the issue enough; and collective action problems generally prevail.
Our Economy needs to invest in the future; which is mostly about sending money away from fossil fuels towards renewables, but may also be about rethinking economic growth models.
In Law we need a constraint on extraction at a global level i.e. a legal mechanism to keep fossil fuels in the ground, but we need to be mindful of the financial impact of that (‘carbon bubble’).
Throughout our Culture: we need to break ‘climate silence‘ and normalise discussions on the issue; moving away from whether it’s happening to what we’re doing about it.
The purpose of this reframing is to:
Highlight the systemic nature of the challenge, and the range of possible solutions.
Allow people who might otherwise be disengaged from the challenge to see themselves in it, and identify their scope for action within that domain, rather than be daunted by ‘climate change’ as a whole.
Encourage necessary conversations between individuals and groups across these dimensions, with an emphasis on moving beyond unilateral (eg Science alone) or bi-lateral (eg Economy to Democracy) connections. Climate change must move from being a scientific to a social fact before any significant progress can be made, which requires a multi-lateral approach.
To differentiate it from broader environmental concerns, but also to clarify what it really means – for people, business and governments – to ‘act’ on climate change with conviction.
The report looks at some of the main issues in each of the seven dimensions, and begins to explore why seeing the problem through this lens might help to accelerate constructive action on climate change.”