One way to think about climate change is as the ultimate planetary boardgame, Climate Chess. The characteristics of climate change suggest that a combination of strategic and tactical responses will be critical to success (if success is possible), not unlike how you might approach a normal game of chess.


Let's compare some of the characteristics of conventional chess and Climate Chess.

Chess is characterized by:

  • Two opposing teams.
  • Each team has different pieces with different capabilities in terms of the moves available to them.
  • There are always lots of possible moves, and millions of game permutations. You have no idea at the outset what the winning move of the game will actually be.
  • Players always need to be looking for opportunities to take advantage of a weakness or mistake on the part of the opposing team, and
  • Winning against a talented opponent depends on taking advantage of all the pieces on the board to execute a successful strategy. Pawns in chess, for example, generally have a lot less power than Bishops. But in the right place at the right time a Pawn can checkmate the other team's King. But that never happens if the Pawn is not part of a coordinated strategy on the board.

Tackling climate change can be characterized similarly:

  • People worried about climate change are seeing their efforts countered by an "opposing group." (Team No Urgency)
  • Different organizations and individuals have different skill sets, capabilities, and resources they bring to their climate activities.
  • The opportunities for making a difference on climate change are numerous. They include influencing city or state decision-makers, voting in a local, state, or national election, supporting campaigns against gerrymandering, influencing how textbooks in Texas talk about climate change, or even just talking to your neighbor. But most of these opportunities are time and geography-specific, and require different skill sets and resources.
  • We can't say for sure what might constitute a successful climate change strategy, since so far there hasn't been one. But it's a safe bet that not taking advantage of all the skill sets and opportunities at our disposal will reduce the likelihood of success, just like on the typical chess board.

The analogies between chess and tackling climate change are strong enough to suggest that what we're really engaged in when it comes to climate change is the ultimate planetary board game of Climate Chess.

Your Climate Change PhD lets you dig much deeper into the playing of Climate Chess, and the current placement of Team Urgency and Team No-Urgency on the board.

It also provides you with a lot of insight into how to up Team Urgency’s game, and what role individuals and organizations can play.

Climate Chess is not a game you can play and win as an individual. It represents a combination strategic/tactical approach to solving climate change that has so far been largely absent from climate change mitigation efforts. Individuals have a key role to play in Climate Chess, but their role has to be part of a collective and coordinated effort. That collective and coordinated effort is what Climate Chess is all about.

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