A Methodological Challenge
The quest for a Great Transition challenges us to stretch our imaginations and enrich our understanding. Envisioning a holistic shift to a sustainable and livable civilization—and the paths for getting there—requires a systemic, long-range, and multi-scale perspective. This means weaving together social and environmental themes into an integrated analytic panorama, adopting a timeframe that arches over decades to connect “now” with “then,” and zooming across levels of spatial resolutions to focus on global, regional, and local aspects of the Earth system.
The Scenario Approach
Conventional analysis contributes to understanding this challenge by illuminating discrete aspects of the problem. But the accretion of fragmented knowledge does not take us to the integrated, long-term understanding we need. Moreover, deep uncertainties about the drivers of change and about future human choices sharply limit the predictive capacity of standard models. Rather than predictions, scenarios are stories about how history might unfold. Beginning with contemporary trends and driving forces, each scenario embodies different assumptions about plausible developments and human response. They are thought experiments rooted in science for stimulating the imagination, alerting us to dangers, and inspiring corrective action.
Scenarios at Tellus