Following the post-Paris celebrations, a lot of us were left saying:
* But what do we do now?
* If the world just agreed on a low-carbon future, why is the fracking, pipeline construction, and exploration for new fossil fuel reserves continuing as before?
A ‘super wicked problem’ (originally from Levin, Cashore, Auld & Bernstein), is a problem where:
I’ve attended several ‘Post-Paris’/’What’s Next’ events over the last month. And to feed the audience’s need for optimism (I assume), none of these framed the challenge in this way. The potential social impacts of continued climate change are super depressing (low-lying island states facing an existential threat, potentially resulting in more migration crises and likely more anti-migrant xenophobia).
And so — to avoid this — the conversation veers into descriptions of our ‘deliverance’ through some form of ‘techno-salvation’ provided by low-carbon technologies. A noble dream, but not when we let it blind us to the sobering implications of climate change risks.
The concept of a ‘super wicked problem’ is a crucial reminder of why we — environmental advocates — can feel such extreme frustration or despair:
The path towards a low-carbon future is not incremental. We are pushing against great resistance with every step closer to the tipping point.
Our efforts are not worthless, but we are fighting to change an extremely entrenched socio-techno system that:
(1) underpins our energy, transport, and industrial sectors
(2) is self-reinforcing.
Accordingly — we must soldier on with our demanding, drawn-out quest because it is absolutely essential to tip the momentum towards a low-carbon world.
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