June 17, 2019

There have been hundreds of climate change conferences over the years, most with no ambition to come up with a strategy for "saving the climate." Plenty of "calls to action," and plenty of statements of what "needs to happen," but coming up with a plausibly workable strategy is much harder than reiterating yet again what needs to happen and by when.

Most conferences about saving the climate focus on solutions. But as Einstein is supposed to have said, this is putting the cart before the horse. Particularly when it comes to solving a wicked problem like climate change.

Taking Einstein's admonition to heart, who would you invite to a strategy session that would not focus only on climate solutions, but on really understanding the problem, And what would you anticipate being talked about?

Those are hard questions, but I've put together a list in response to both questions. Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

Note: You can open the screenshot in a new tab for a larger image. You can also jump directly to this list in the Climate Web, where you can even explore the work and ideas of many of the people on the list simply by clicking on that persons name.

The fact there are 94 names on the list is primarily a reflection of how many names could comfortably fit into the screenshot in the Climate Web. There is nothing magical about most of the names, and with thousands of smart people working on climate change around the world it is admittedly U.S.-centric; many more names could be added. The real goal of the list is to demonstrate just how interdisciplinary any serious effort to talk about "saving the climate" would want to be. Note that the list takes the problem of climate change for granted, so it is light on science and scientists. The list is also not limited just to the "household names" of climate change, although plenty of them are on the list.

So what would all of these experts talk about? Just like the attendees, the list of topics when it comes to tackling the wicked problem would be wide-ranging.

The number of topics shown here is again largely a function of how much could fit well into the screenshot in the Climate Web. The list could be expanded or shrunk down. Its primary purpose is to suggest again just how many relevant climate conversations are currently under way within the hundreds of topical climate silos. As with the list of attendees, you can jump to the list of topics in the Climate Web. Each topic is an Index Entry in the Climate Web, allowing you to explore related resources.

Of course no one would ever actually try to organize this kind of a "save the climate" strategy session. You could never get these 94 people together, and if you did many of them would want to focus the conversation on "their" climate silo. Similarly, you could never engage in a serious conversation about the 94 topics shown on the list. The strategy session would have to last for weeks, and most participants would be relatively uninterested in most of the topics (since we each believe "our silo" is the most important silo).

Of course that illustrates the problem of trying to tackle climate change. Plenty of experts, plenty of knowledge, no way to put it all together into a workable strategy. Instead we wait for Adam Smith's Invisible Hand to generate the desired result from the work of thousands of people in hundreds of silos. And wait. And wait.

What if there were a way to take advantage of the knowledge of numerous experts for purposes of assembling the pieces of a "save the climate" strategy? What if we could take advantage of Woodrow Wilson's advice that "there is no idea in our heads that has not been worn shiny by someone else's brain"? That's one goal of building the Climate Web as a knowledge solution for tackling climate change.

If you're interested in exploring the idea further, this 5 minute video is an easy way to start.

About the author 

Laura Kosloff

Laura Kosloff is an attorney with more than 30 years of environmental and natural resources experience. She has worked on numerous topics including hazardous waste, environmental justice, water law, and climate change. Currently she focuses on legal and policy issues relating to energy, climate, and other resource issues facing companies and organizations, with a growing focus on risk communication. She has worked extensively on the design of greenhouse gas mitigation and offset policies, and participated in carbon offset negotiations and due diligence.

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