Category Archives: Scenario Planning

Summary of Results of First Adirondack Regional Responses to Climate Change Workshop

On December 11 and 12, 2014 a diverse set of 32 scientists, policy makers, government officials, non-profit leaders and concerned citizens mapped out different ways in which our region might respond to the threat of disruptive climate change. As we did for the ADK Futures project, we are using a scenario planning approach in which we consider multiple plausible outcomes for 25 years from now and map out pathways to get to them using events that could happen between now and the outcome horizon.  The full documentation of the workshop is available.  Here we present a summary of results.  Future posts will explore some of the issues raised.

The issues and options with regard to climate change are notoriously complex and because what we do will be affected by what happens elsewhere, we can’t just consider scenarios at the regional level.  Therefore, we set the context for our regional thinking with two sets of global scenarios.  First, we presented 5 scenarios for how the global climate system might evolve over the next 25 years.  These global climate scenarios are labeled:

  • C1: Gradual Change
  • C2: Faster Change
  • C3: Pause Ends
  • C4: Non-Linear
  • C5: Unpredictable

After some discussion, we asked the participants to rank order these climate scenarios from most probable over the next 25 years to least probable.  Here are the results:

global climate ranking table result

The result is pretty clear:  the most difficult to deal with climate possibilities (C4 Non-Linear and C5 Unpredictable) are the most likely (tied for first) and the most benign ones are the least likely.  Get ready for more bad weather.

Next, we presented 5 scenarios for the human race might respond to the threat of climate change at the global level.  Climate change is a problem whose worst consequences can only be prevented by global action.  These global response scenarios are labeled:

  • G1: Governments in Gear
  • G2: Bottom Up Progress
  • G3: Private Sector Leads
  • G4: The Oblique Path to Progress
  • G5: Panic!

Again, after some discussion, we asked the participants to rank order these climate scenarios from most probable over the next 25 years to least probable.  Here are the results:

global response ranking table result

This result puts most faith in the private sector(G3) and bottom up efforts (G2) and has the lowest expectations of success for top-down, national government-led efforts (G1).  This is realistic but it isn’t clear that we can avert damaging climate change without G1 and a truly global solution.

With this as context, the workshop focused on 6 scenarios about how the Adirondack Region responds over the next 25 years. These regional responses are labeled:

  • A: Minimize Our Carbon Footprint
  • B: Prepare for the Worst
  • C: Hyper-Green Human Refuge
  • D: Climate Change Laboratory
  • E: Don’t Panic
  • F: Reaching a Regional Tipping Point

After almost a full day of analysis and then a spirited half-day of plenary debate, we asked the participants to rank order these six regional response scenarios on desirability and attainability, just as we did with the Adirondack Futures endstates in 2011 and 2012.  Here are the results:

regional after ranking result

Unlike in the Adirondack Futures result (which we said at the time was highly unusual), the most desirable outcome here A, where we lower our carbon footprint, is the least attainable. Why this is so will be the subject of a future post. The scenario that got the most endorsement for action in the workshop is B, the one focused on proactive adaptation with the expectation of serious climate change in the future.  Scenario C, which says the region will be a winner on balance because of climate change, was viewed skeptically. The narrowly focused science and research scenario D was viewed as difficult to pull off and didn’t address enough of the region’s needs.   Scenario E that took a pragmatic, measured approach was seen as easy to do but undesirable.  Scenario F in which the region is badly wrecked by climate change was obviously undesirable but received a fairly high attainability score.

The end of the workshop was devoted to sketching out ways in which multiple endstates and layers of endstates might be integrated into a more complete roadmap for the next 25 years and beyond. One synthesis depicted change over time at both the global climate level (top), global response level (x-axis) and regional level (bottom).

adk cc synthesis diagram

The climate will worsen, eventually changing non-linearly.  The G2 (Bottom Up) and G3 (Private Sector) global responses predominate at first followed by more of a G4 (Oblique) approach and then finally as the climate worsens still, G1 (Top-Down) kicks in.  Regionally there is a lot of focus on mitigation and clean energy (A) especially as the private sector brings the costs down.  The intensity of our regional efforts will follow the triggers of the global scenarios with B (Adaptation) and C (Human Refuge) dominating over time. Seems likely that B and C will end up dwarfing everything else as the climate gets bad. In their view, D (Laboratory) is flat over time and so is E (Don’t Panic).  You continue to do smart, practical things (E) and you do great science although funding might be tighter in the future as money goes to adaptation.

In future posts we will dig into specific scenarios and their implications.

Report Available on First Climate Change Response Workshop

On December 11 and 12 we held our first workshop in a new series about how the region responds to the threat of disruptive climate change.  Despite a big snow storm the two days prior, 32 people made it to Paul Smith’s College to spend two days examining six alternative scenarios for how the region might respond.  Although there are some tweaks to make to the starting framework, in general the group found the framework useful.  We plan to hold more of these workshops starting sometime in May 2015.  We would like to develop a half-day version as we did in the original ADK Futures workshop series.  In the weeks to come we will be writing a few posts about issues and conclusions raised in this first climate change workshop.  For now, you can read the full report on the workshop.

Working with Adirondack Schools

We spent Friday October 19th visiting Long Lake Central School and Indian Lake Central School.

We took the teachers at these schools through a sample of the ADK Futures materials and process with the idea of working them into the curriculum of middle school and high school students this year or next.  We discussed various ways we might work with the schools to bring ADK Futures to students.

The new common core standards for schools emphasize learning through real-world problems that are relevant to the students’ lives rather than abstract or fictional problems or topics.   Our work provides some great content that can be integrated across a number of subjects: science, math, civics, history, social studies, arts, physical education, etc.  Going through a process like scenario planning would teach students to work in teams and allow them to become more engaged in the efforts to improve their communities and the region. But the greatest benefits, we feel, would come from students feeling more empowered to participate in the creation of their own future.

Students would need background information on many aspects of the Adirondack Park region prior to participating in some form of the process.  We were pointed to the Adirondack Curriculum Project which already provides a great deal of relevant material, already organized into the lesson plans.  As we work with a school, what we develop with them can be reused by other schools.  Over time, we could have a pretty complete set of modules that any school in the region can use.  Ultimately, we might have a youth planning summit in which students from multiple schools come to debate the best future for them as they grow up and the ways in which they can work to make that future happen.

We look forward to continuing these discussions with these two schools and others.

A New Blog on the Future of the Adirondack Park

We have been engaged in a scenario planning project about the future of the Adirondack Park in upstate New York under the auspices of the Common Ground Alliance (CGA).  The work has proceeded to the point where there is a vision and strategy for the region and now we are beginning to work through various implementation efforts.  With so much going on we are going to use this blog as a way to keep everyone informed and up to date.  We’ll be posting regularly on efforts we know of or discussions we are having with people throughout the Park.

Since the 2012 CGA Forum, we have prepared a document which summarizes the vision and strategy implied by the results of the workshop series.  We have also been starting to track and coordination the various implementation efforts underway.  The blog will report regularly and we will maintain the Implementation Status section of this site as well.