Actionable Knowledge for Climate Progress

head sculpture with open top and a brain being plugged in

This is Part 3 of this blog series. In Part 1, I asked, “do we really intend to do something about climate change?” Part 2 asked “if so, does information matter?” Part 3 asks, “can I find the information I need?”

The idea of actionable climate knowledge reflects the reality that an individual making a climate-relevant decision is doing so on the basis of her ability to answer the two questions that govern all human decision-making: “is it worth it,” and “can I do it?” Each of us uses different information to answer the two questions, and it has to be extracted from the information deluge that crashes over us every day.

Here’s a great (non-climate) example of information that has been organized into actionable knowledge (thanks to Patrick McKercher):

“Andrea, an accounts manager at an investment firm, wakes up to learn from CNN that an Asian banking scandal is strangling venture capital flows and causing loans to be called in prematurely.

Andrea accesses her company’s TheBrain™-based proprietary Knowledge Web to scan her company’s Asian partners and holdings. Clicking on the link to the Royal Bank of Hong Kong (RBHK), the hardest hit bank according to CNN, she is relieved to find that relatively few of her own clients are linked to RBHK, and that her company’s overall exposure to the crisis is modest.

She clicks through the Knowledge Web to show all clients with loans from the Royal Bank of Hong Kong that missed their financial targets in last 36 months, revealing just one client, Tsingtao Telecommunications. Pulling up her company’s current Asia strategy from the Knowledge Web she sees that Tsingtao is an important part of that strategy, and that Tsingtao is linked to other clients in Sweden, Indonesia, and South Africa.

Andrea then sets about using the Knowledge Web to help solve her client’s problem. She can see that Tsingtao switched its banking to RBHK from Cathay Bank four years ago. From her “people network” within the Knowledge Web she discovers that Alejandro (who graduated from the Haas Business School at UCB a few years after she did) now works at Cathay Bank. She calls Alejandro and finds out that after getting poor returns in real estate, Cathay wants to diversify and is interested in reclaiming lost customers. Cathay soon offers Tsingtao a bridge loan at very favorable rates, and Andrea receives a generous bonus at her next review.”

Most of us are likely envious of the Knowledge Web Andrea was able to draw upon, and in fact knowledge management is big business. Andrea’s TheBrain™ software is actually in use by many Fortune 100 companies, and by agencies like the Department of Defense and the CIA. Most of us, however, create elaborate electronic file folder systems full of reports, news stories, and websites that we’re sure we’ll need in the future. A good substitute? Not even close, and when we do need information we’re often left searching the internet for “that great piece” we vaguely remember seeing six months before. Unfortunately, when it comes to a topic like climate change, almost any climate-related search term will generate millions of hits. That’s the antithesis of individual-specific actionable knowledge.

The actionable knowledge we need is almost certainly out there. Woodrow Wilson supposedly said that “there is no idea in our heads that has not been worn shiny by someone else’s brain.” It’s a great quote, whoever said it. There’s almost no question that the internet holds what you need, already “worn shiny by someone else’s brain.” The problem is finding it! As reflected in knowledge management expert Carla O’Dell musing: “If only we knew what we know.”

Those simple seven words go a long ways toward explaining why we’re headed for between 3.5 and 6.0 degrees C of climate change, a level of change that will wreak havoc on the natural and managed systems upon which human societies depend.  It’s not that the information and actionable knowledge we need to make better decisions about climate change doesn’t exist – we’re deluged with climate-relevant information. The problem is that the relevant decision-makers either never encounter “their” actionable knowledge, or have forgotten it by the time they need it.

Let me give you a personal example. I saw a news story today that referred to the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition’s recent Report on the High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices. Since carbon pricing is an area of personal expertise, I figured I should track it down. The report sounded familiar, and when I found the document I even recognized its cover. But I had no recollection of whether I’d read the report.

But like Andrea and the CIA, I have a Knowledge Web built with TheBrain™ software. The Climate Web links together more than 1,000 books, 2,000 videos, 15,000 reports and articles, 25,000 news stories, 3,000 websites, 2,000 topical experts, as well as 10’s of thousands of individually extracted ideas and graphics. 1,500 index entries instantly take me to potentially actionable knowledge on any climate topic, basically putting the entire topic of climate change into my short-term memory.  Calling up the Report of the High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices, it turns out I had read it and linked 30 key ideas and graphics into the Climate Web’s Carbon Pricing Deep Dive. Replicate that thousands of times and you’ll have a sense of how the Climate Web beats Google on actionable knowledge.

For a visual introduction to what I’m talking about, this video explores how the Center for Climate and Security’s recent report, “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene,” is integrated into the Climate and Security Deep Dive of the Climate Web.

 

 

In Part 1 of this blog series I used the metaphor of a 1,000,000 piece jigsaw puzzle to represent the climate change challenge, and urged people really wanting to make a difference on climate change to go to “jigsaw puzzle school.” The Climate Web IS jigsaw puzzle school, and we’ve kept it public access to facilitate faster completion of the puzzle. The web-based version of TheBrain™ software through which you can access the Climate Web, however, is less powerful than the desktop software. To accomplish the actionable knowledge miracles that Andrea was able to, or that we’re able to with the Climate Web, you’d want to develop your own Knowledge Web “fitted” to your own brain.

If you’re working on climate change, however, we can greatly simplify the process. We can use topical modules from the Climate Web to help you construct your own Knowledge Web, saving you hundreds or even thousands of hours. After that you’re free to take your Knowledge Web in any direction that makes sense for you.

Helping you build your own Knowledge Web is just one of many ways the Climate Web can help advance your climate-relevant goals. Whether you’re an individual, a business leader, a researcher, a philanthropist, or a consultant/lawyer, the Climate Web is an unparalleled actionable knowledge resource for climate issues, climate risks, and climate solutions. If you’re involved in any way with the 1,000,000 piece climate change jigsaw puzzle, you should take advantage of the Climate Web.

 

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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“Project Drawdown” and “Climate of Hope”: Moving the GHG Needle?

line of windmills on a hill sunset

April 18th was a big day for climate change books. Paul Hawken’s long-awaited Project Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming came out, as did Michael Bloomberg’s and Carl Pope’s Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet. Both titles are provocative and optimistic, and both books are written by experienced teams. They are also about as different in approach and content as two books tackling climate change could be!

So what lessons should readers take away regarding a path forward on climate change? Interesting question.

Let’s start with Climate of Hope. It is a broad-ranging book that aims to lay out a game plan on climate change. It’s an engaging story. I’ll summarize the book’s ambitious claims this way:

  • Almost every sector can make a significant climate change contribution and be better off in the short term for doing so.
  • The best way to reach skeptics is for more people to tell climate success stories. Stories such as how taking action improves our lives in the here and now. How it makes us healthier. How it saves us money. How it helps connect those in poverty with job opportunities. How it helps us compete in the world. How it helps create jobs. We can win over the skeptics by demonstrating how fighting climate change is good for them, their families, and their communities.
  • Devolving power to cities is the single best step that national governments can take to improve the world’s ability to fight climate change.

book cover Climate of HopeThese are three important arguments. The first two points have been made many times, but I’ve never seen more than anecdotal evidence to support them. After reading Climate of Hope, I believe this remains true. The authors’ “city empowerment” argument as the most important solution to climate change is new to me, but it, too, is delivered only by anecdotes. That may be enough to serve as a hopeful message to those already committed to action on climate change, but it’s hard to see how it does more than that in showing a path forward.

What about Project Drawdown? This book has already drawn strong praise from observers, such as Joel Makower of Greenbiz, who states:

“The book, along with an accompanying website, may be the first to provide the insight and inspiration, backed by empirical research and data, that could enable companies, governments and citizens to attack the climate problem in a holistic and aggressive way. Moreover, many, if not most, of the solutions can be undertaken with little or no new laws or policy, and can be financed profitably by companies and capital markets.”

book cover project drawdownProject Drawdown looks at 100 ways to “draw down” atmospheric GHG levels, whether through emissions reductions or enhanced sequestration. The book specifically quantifies out to 2050 the GHG benefits of 76 of those interventions. The authors suggest that with those interventions we can begin to reverse global warming before 2050, even based on conservative economic and deployment assumptions. Paul Hawken noted in a recent talk that the Project Drawdown team didn’t “pick” these interventions based on their own assumptions and biases, but drew upon an existing “collective human wisdom” about what to do about global warming. He argued in the same talk that this collective wisdom is reflected in the fact that deployment of many of the technologies has already begun to rapidly scale.

Hawken also makes the case that until this book no one he talked to could list the most important options and actions for reversing global warming. Certainly, there’s no doubt that he and his team have put in an enormous amount of work to put together the Project Drawdown list. Much of the supporting documentation is not yet available on the Project Drawdown website, so it’s difficult to know what is yet to come. Yet based on the materials currently available, what have we learned about reversing global warming? That’s a complicated and nuanced question.

Readers might group them in different ways, but I would characterize 19 of Project Drawdown’s interventions as being in the electric sector, ranging from renewable energy technologies to energy storage and energy efficiency. The agriculture sector accounts for 17, another 10 are in the land use and forestry sectors, and 13 are in the transport sector. In most cases, efforts to deploy the listed interventions and technologies have been underway for years. I’m left somewhat perplexed about why we should expect these technologies to scale rapidly now, with few new laws or policies, or why companies and capital markets will suddenly find it profitable to do so (as Joel Makower suggests). It’s particularly notable, for example, that while pricing carbon is commonly characterized in the climate change literature as the single most important “need” when it comes to reversing global warming, Project Drawdown explicitly avoids assuming any global carbon price.

Is Project Drawdown really the first comprehensive plan for reversing global warming? Not really. There have been many studies that have laid out a plan or modeled a reversal of climate change in the 2050 timeframe or thereafter, from Paul Gilding’s “one degree war plan” in 2010, to WRI’s recently published Risky Business Project: From Risk to Return. It’s true that these reports don’t take the same “measure by measure” approach Project Drawdown does; but is Project Drawdown’s approach inherently more robust?

Not all of the “drawdown” estimates in Project Drawdown are new. As one example, in 1994 I estimated the drawdown potential to 2050 of several of the interventions in WRI’s Keeping It Green: Tropical Forestry Opportunities to Mitigate Climate Change. Estimates of the global mitigation potential of many of Project Drawdown’s other interventions have appeared in dozens of studies over the last 20 years. Project Drawdown may have significantly reworked the numbers, but we won’t know how or with what effect until the technical documentation becomes available.

Should the conclusions of Project Drawdown be treated as “the” truth when it comes to mapping out strategies to reverse climate change? What issues would be raised if we make that assumption? For example:

  • Can the energy sector justifiably now point to “reducing food waste” and “shifting to a plant-rich diet” as bigger global warming priorities than a low-carbon energy transition?
  • Is empowering women really the single biggest priority for reversing global warming? How would advocates of reversing global warming advance that empowerment?
  • The interventions listed in Project Drawdown reflect a huge range in terms of “drawdown potentials.” Intervention #1 (refrigerants) comes in at 90 billion tons (GTs) of drawdown potential by 2050, while the “smallest” intervention (micro wind) comes in at 0.2 GTs (1/450th of the potential of refrigerants). That suggests that Project Drawdown is putting forward a pretty complete list. But Project Drawdown doesn’t even mention several commonly discussed interventions with arguably large drawdown potentials, e.g., carbon capture and storage, space-based power, and ocean biomass restoration. Does that mean we should abandon these options in our efforts to reverse global warming?
  • What about the relative barriers that specific interventions face, the drivers that could move them forward, and the role and interests of key constituencies? By the way, you can see a first cut at organizing Project Drawdown’s interventions by likely barriers and drivers here in the Climate Web.
  • If many of these technologies are already scaling rapidly — as Project Drawdown suggests — what is the “business as usual case” against which Project Drawdown is being compared? Do the outcomes described in Project Drawdown depend on all kinds of unspecified policy and other interventions (even if we exclude a global price on carbon)? Presumably we’ll find out when the technical documentation becomes available.

Project Drawdown is an important contribution to our understanding of many of the “chess pieces” that populate the “let’s reverse global warming” planetary chessboard. I would suggest, however, that it’s a mistake to assume that Project Drawdown has divined all of the important pieces on the chessboard, or that the Project Drawdown authors have unique insight into the millions of chess moves that are yet to come.

Project Drawdown does present a “comprehensive plan for reversing global warming.” Let’s applaud Hawken and his team for that, but let’s not assume it is “the” comprehensive plan. If the climate change community starts arguing about the accuracy and robustness of Project Drawdown’s conclusions, including via the on-line model that will be available at the website by the end of this year, it could be a huge distraction from the real priority: figuring out how to move chess pieces forward on the “let’s reverse global warming chessboard.”

The fact is that we can’t know what will happen between now and 2050 across the hundreds of variables relevant to reversing global warming. The more options we pursue, the better our chances of achieving the goal. Yes, we should always prioritize different chess pieces on the board as individual circumstances and opportunities for movement warrant. But that’s a far cry from “picking the winning pieces” today and focusing only on them. Project Drawdown has created a good list of ways to reverse global warming; let’s not get sucked into a debate about whether it’s the “right” list, or details such as whether the assumed share of urban bike trips will be 7.5% or 9% in 2050.

Let’s focus instead on using the great work that has gone into Project Drawdown to accelerate the scaling of interventions with drawdown potential across the board. The goal of reversing global warming may look simple enough in Project Drawdown, but let’s remember that it’s a daunting challenge.

NOTE: The topics covered in Project Drawdown and its relationship to the larger low-carbon transition literature are very important. As soon as the rest of Project Drawdown’s technical documentation becomes available, we’ll finalize our “Climate Solutions 301 – Will Project Drawdown Move the Needle?” course to help you put all of the relevant information into context. You can sign up for it and our other courses at the Climate Web’s Courses Portal page.

From Litter to Climate Change: Pogo +47

sinking ship no one doing anything on climate change

Walt Kelly’s famous cartoon of Pogo noting that “we have met the enemy, and he is us!” appeared on April 22, 1970. Pogo wasn’t talking about climate change, but he certainly could have been, as the field of behavioral economics has made so abundantly clear since then.

I didn’t enter the climate fray until 1988, coincidentally after helping to permit the only coal-fired power plant ever approved by the California Energy Commission. Based on my observations and work since then, Pogo’s words are still relevant today.

That’s the theme behind my new cartoon depicting the USS Climate Response in trouble and about to go down. It’s going down not because we don’t have the ability to build the necessary pump, but because we’re each so focused on our own tasks that we don’t see the collaborative opportunity.

The cartoon is simultaneously pessimistic and hopeful. I’ve focused for several years on building the Climate Web as a way to encourage the passengers of the USS Climate Response to collaborate on the rear deck by making it easier for them to do so. The Climate Web doesn’t purport to offer its own better pump design. Rather, it facilitates access to the many excellent pump designs (i.e. climate ideas and solutions) on which the ship’s passengers have been working individually.

It’s coincidental that this cartoon was finalized today. As it happens, it’s great timing — 47 years to the day (it’s already April 22nd somewhere!) after Pogo’s utterance. I welcome your feedback and reactions.

My collaborator on this cartoon is Bob D’Amico, a talented illustrator and cartoonist. It turns out Bob is a big Walt Kelly fan himself. The picture shows Bob posing in 1969 next to another of Walt Kelly’s works, the emblem for the USS Sea Owl submarine.

Navy man on sub next to submarine emblem
Cartoonist Bob D’Amico in 1969 aboard the USS Sea Owl

Bob and I have collaborated on several cartoons (shown below). I’m happy to give permission for their use upon request.

men joking about sustainability because buildings are LEED

growing mountain of climate information overload

Does Information Matter for Completing the 1,000,000 Piece Climate Jigsaw Puzzle?

men discussing 1,000,000 piece puzzle to solve climate change

This is part 2 of a 3-part blog. The first part is here, where I explored some of the reasons we’re doing so poorly at completing the 1,000,000 piece climate jigsaw puzzle envisioned by Australian cartoonist Neil Matterson in 2008, a cartoon that remains as relevant today as it was nine years ago.

I concluded Part 1 suggesting that people who want to influence climate change outcomes should attend Climate Puzzle School to learn more about the unique challenges of completing a 1,000,000 piece puzzle, and how they can help beyond the individual puzzle piece they may already be working on.

My “The Great Wall” cartoon zeroes in on one of the most important topics for Puzzle School to cover, namely how to help climate change decision-makers get the  “is it worth it?” and “can I do it?” information  that underlies all human decision-making (see Grenny and Paterson’s 2013 book, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything). Answers to those two critical questions need to find their way from the “growing mountain of climate change information” through, over, or under “The Great Wall” to individuals making climate-relevant decisions.

The challenge doesn’t stem from an information shortage — rather, it’s the opposite. Individuals working on the 1,000,000 piece climate jigsaw puzzle are a veritable information generating machine, using thousands of venues to generate and distribute a virtual infinity of climate-relevant information. From books to reports to videos, blogs, and news stories, any decision-maker with any interest in the topic will likely find herself deluged with information.

The “Great Wall” in my cartoon is obviously metaphorical, but it might as well be as real. Enormous quantities of information do spill over the wall, one symptom of which is that decision-makers turn up millions of hits in connection with any online search. Regardless of whether that decision-maker is an individual purchasing a car, a business executive interested in assessing climate risks, or a policy-maker considering a legislative proposal, the likelihood that he or she will ever see the best available answers to their own “is it worth it, can I do it?” questions is vanishingly small. This in turn dramatically  biases decision-making outcomes against being as climate-friendly” as they could be.

Information overload is certainly important in explaining our relative lack of action on climate change as suggested by Neil Matterson’s 1,000,000 piece jigsaw puzzle cartoon. But the communications challenge goes deeper. Most communication of climate information is premised on the idea of “rational dialogue” in which anyone can be “brought around” on climate change if supplied with enough factual information. Perhaps not surprisingly, most climate communication therefore focuses on constituencies who have not embraced an aggressive response to climate change. Yet we know from two decades of behavioral economics research that this “rational dialogue” assumption couldn’t be more wrong. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman (often referred to as the father of behavioral economics) characterizes human responses to information inputs as falling into one of two categories: System 1 or System 2. Most human decision-making is reactive and automatic System 1 thinking. Only a small fraction of information inputs get sent up the cognitive chain for System 2 consideration and processing.

Most climate communications assume a System 2 response, which is why we assume that more factual information will eventually get almost anyone to “see the light.” But no one is ever the bad guy in their own mind; everyone believes they have already “seen the light.” Everyone’s System 1 brains filter most of the climate-relevant information they receive to fit their mental models and world view; it rarely moves on to System 2.

In other words, incentivizing better climate change decision-making isn’t about generating and delivering enough information to turn “bad decision-makers” into “good decision-makers.” It’s about getting information in front of decision-makers that goes to their “is it worth it, can I do it?” questions, and that triggers their System 2 decision-making process. Access to “actionable knowledge” might result in a different decision-making behavioral outcome. But recognizing the importance of “actionable knowledge” also illustrates the real communications challenge. Almost infinite information exists, but how do individual decision-makers find the specific actionable knowledge they would use to make more climate friendly decisions?

The “more is better” model that drives most climate communications today has become counter-productive. If we want to move the 1,000,000 piece climate jigsaw puzzle closer to completion — i.e., closer to real environmental benefits and action on climate change — we need to recognize the importance of facilitating access to “actionable knowledge.” Importantly, the need for improved actionable knowledge access applies just as much to individuals already working on the 1,000,000 piece climate change jigsaw puzzle as it does to individuals skeptical of climate change and climate action.

As I argued in Part 1 of this blog, individuals working on the puzzle are as much a part of the problem Pogo described in 1971 (“we have met the enemy, and he is us”) as almost anyone else. Yet it should be easier to get individuals already working on the puzzle to become more effective in contributing to puzzle progress, than to try and use information to change the worldview of individuals skeptical of climate change and climate action.

If the goal is actionable knowledge, perhaps knowledge management approaches and tools are part of the solution? I explore this question in this short video that shows how thinking of climate information flows as a system can illustrate the relationship of climate information to climate progress or the lack thereof.

The video suggests that without a knowledge management function, information overload takes over and sabotages progress on climate change. Inserting a new node into the system representing knowledge management fundamentally changes how the system works. (FYI, the “Loopy” software I used to design the climate information systems in the video was recently developed by Nicky Case. You can see and play with the original systems diagrams: here (for the without knowledge management case) and here (for the with knowledge management case). Feel free to improve my depiction of the climate information system and send it back to me. The idea of the Loopy software is to encourage conversations about systems using easy to build systems diagrams. A great idea!)

I’m certainly not arguing that knowledge management is the “silver bullet” for completing the 1,000,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. But knowledge management training IS likely to be a critical component of any Climate Puzzle School. What’s the status of knowledge management for supporting climate change decision-making? I’ll explore that in Part 3 of this blog.

Do We Really Intend to Avoid Dangerous Climate Change?

To be clear, I’m not asking “do we care about climate change?,” or “are we worried about climate change?,” or “would we like to see something done about climate change?” The answer to all of these questions is obvious from dozens of opinion polls documenting public concern over climate change.

But we care about lots of wicked problems. We care about global peace, while the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Doomsday Clock gets ever closer to midnight. We care about global inequality, while it gets worse. We care about the international wildlife trade, yet the illegal trade continues decade after decade. We’ve cared about climate change for 30 years now, and yet we remain on track for dangerous climate change.

So what I’m asking isn’t “do we care?” It’s “do we intend to do anything about it?” That’s a much harder question to answer. To explore the question further, I’ll use Neil Matterson’s 2008 vision of the 1,000,000 piece climate change jigsaw puzzle.

men discussing 1,000,000 piece puzzle to solve climate change
Source: Neil Matterson, Sunday Mail Brisbane, 11/2/2008. Image courtesy National Museum of Australia

After working on many aspects of climate change for more than two decades, I’m fascinated by the fact that so few of the 1,000,000 pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place despite the efforts of millions of individuals, thousands of organizations, and dozens of countries. Why haven’t we made more progress?

I’ve spent the last four years focused on understanding the 1,000,000 climate change jigsaw puzzle. What might the puzzle actually look like if it could be completed? What are the pieces, where do they stand, which could be assembled quickly and which not, who is working to assemble the puzzle and who is trying to slow it down? To this end I’ve read dozens of books, hundreds of reports and journal articles, thousands of news stories, visited thousands of websites, and watched hundreds of videos. With the help of knowledge management tools I “remember” almost all of it, so I can honestly claim to have as in-depth an understanding of the jigsaw puzzle as anyone else.

It’s pretty much inevitable that we’ll decarbonize our energy systems eventually. But why will we wait to finish that transition until we’ve committed to levels of climate change (probably between 2 and 6 degrees C) that will range from disruptive to catastrophic for billions of people on the planet? We have most of the tools we need, and in the larger scheme of things it wouldn’t cost very much. So why is progress on the climate jigsaw puzzle so slow in the face of certain risk and almost inevitable disruption? That’s the really challenging question.

I know that climate change is a wicked problem, perhaps the ultimate Gordian knot for human and societal decision-making. I can list dozens of factors that impede progress on avoiding dangerous climate change, some of which are summarized in this cartoon.

The bottom line is that based on best available information any rational risk-averse society would prioritize completing the 1,000,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The tools to complete most or all of the puzzle already exist. The money exists. But the 1,000,000 piece puzzle hasn’t progressed much beyond what Neil Matterson drew in 2008.

Recognizing that reality, I don’t see convincing skeptics of climate action of the error of their ways as the place to focus if we intend to do something about climate change and ultimately complete the puzzle. Pogo stated on Earth Day 1971, “Yep, son, we have met the enemy and he is us.” I would argue that the when it comes to the 1,000,000 climate change jigsaw puzzle, an important enemy still is the “us” working on the puzzle; we could be doing a much better job. For example:

  • Are there very different views of what the completed puzzle should look like, based on our disciplinary tool sets, political world-views, and financial self-interests? Yes.
  • Are we more committed to completing the puzzle “our way” than to the larger goal of getting the puzzle put together? Yes.
  • Do we only “see” those parts of the puzzle we want to see or are most comfortable seeing? Yes.
  • Are we incentivized to generate ever more information about the puzzle, as opposed to figuring out how to assemble it? Yes.
  • Are we happy to “reinvent the wheel” for individual puzzle pieces if it advances our personal (e.g. need to publish) or organizational (e.g. need to raise funding) interests, no matter how much of a diversion? It seems that way, yes.
  • Do we tend to convince ourselves that “our” puzzle piece is by far the most important, that climate change would be easy to solve if everyone else would just come around to our way of thinking, thus justifying our relative lack of interest in other puzzle pieces? Yes.
  • Do we denigrate the importance of the “other” puzzle pieces (think about the renewables vs. nuclear debate to name just one)? Yes.

The bottom line is that in addition to the many other reasons climate change is such a wicked problem, those of us working on the 1,000,000 piece jigsaw puzzle are part of Pogo’s “we have met the enemy and he is us” problem statement. Our incentive structures lead us to focus much more on “our” piece of the jigsaw puzzle than on the goal of completing puzzle. We seem to assume that Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand will take care of that part of the process.

If we really want to do something about dangerous climate change we should go to Puzzle School to learn how we could most contribute to completing the 1,000,000 climate change jigsaw puzzle. Unfortunately, Puzzle School doesn’t exist. What does that say about whether we actually intend to do anything about dangerous climate change?