In modern times, scenario planning was described independently by Herman Kahn and Gaston Berger in the early 1960’s and expanded upon and used by the United States military ever since. Very briefly, scenario planning revolves around determining a limited number of assumptions, also known as drivers for change, and then figuring out how things will change if those assumptions occur. Computer modeling is a form of scenario planning. But scenario planning predates all of this. It has been used ever since one person told another a story.
In the climate-change arena, a scenario might start with the assumption that sea levels are rising and South Florida bedrock is porous limestone so nothing can be done locally to stop flooding even in sunny weather. With those two drivers for change, consider a scenario tracking a typical family of four. They own a small business and a single-family home. With the occasional flooding, customers are moving north, and the business is hurting. Flooding damages both the business and the home. Insurance pays for repairs the first few times, but the insurance company finally drops the family and they can no longer find insurance at a price they can afford. They try to move north but millions of Floridians have moved north and there are no jobs, nor housing at a price they can afford. They end up in a refugee camp. But with too many refugees, the camp struggles to provide food, water, power, police, and medical care. People start dying of crime, disease, and eventually thirst and starvation. The city that hosts the refugee camp is affected by the disease, crime, and overuse of resources. That causes more crime and disease. The city government calls in Federal resources, but many other cities experience the same circumstances and the Federal government eventually can no longer help. Water and sewer services fail, power systems fail, and civilization is dying.
A similar scenario might follow a typical family in Texas experiencing severe drought. They too move north. As with the family from Florida, they find themselves in refugee camps with the same problems, and civilization starts to die there, too. Another scenario can be used for those who experience super storms that destroy cities. Residents flee to refugee camps, and civilization dies for them as well.
Scenario planning shows that long before global warming makes life outdoors too hot, or destroys factory farming, or even causes extreme flooding or dries up rivers, civilization will end. This is persuasive.
If we add names and faces to our scenarios, especially those of innocent children, grandparents, kind nurses, and even puppies, using scenario-based arguments can change hearts of climate fence-sitters. If enough hearts are changed to affect voting and energy use, perhaps scenario planning can help to prevent the worst of these scenarios from actually coming to pass.
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