Climate Change: Policy Change and Complex Systems
Despite strong scientific consensus on the causes and risks of climate change, it remains difficult to develop and implement effective policies to address this critical issue. While almost everyone believes that a changing climate is a concern, there is still widespread disagreement about the speed and level of cuts in emissions which must be made. Is there a different way to look at this issue that could help each of us be better advocates for effective change, something which would help us achieve consensus on the right course of action?
Policies to manage complex natural and technical systems should be based on the best available scientific knowledge. In democracies, however, the beliefs of the public and elected officials, not only those of experts, affect government policy. As such, effective risk communication needs to be grounded in a deep understanding of the mental models of policy-makers and citizens. What, then, are the principal mental models shaping our beliefs about climate change?
On February 5, 2009, Dr. John Sterman, the Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management at MIT's Sloan School of Management and head of MIT's System Dynamics Department, explored these models and their implications at a talk sponsored by Jantz Morgan and the Sloan Alumni Club of Boston.
In addition to the slides from Dr. Sterman's talk, below are links to some of his other papers and video commentary on climate change, as well as other resources, that individuals concerned about Climate Change, may find useful.
Papers and Video Presentations
Creating a Sustainable World: Challenges and Opportunities for Business and Society - the slides from Dr. Sterman's presentation.
Risk Communication on Climate: Mental Models and Mass Balance - explores why risk communication on climate must be aimed at improving our mental models of climate change.
Understanding Public Complacency about Climate Change: Adults' Mental Models of Climate Change Violate Conservation of Matter - explores the contradiction between the public's view that climate change poses a serious risk and their lack of support for policies which could actually reduce that risk.
Irreversible Climate Change Due to Carbon Dioxide Emissions - Dr. Susan Soloman's report on the time lag for climate change impacts which make them effectively irreversible for 1000 years.
The Greenhouse Effect and The Bathtub Effect - Dr. Sterman's comments on Dr Soloman's paper.
Climate Change: Opportunities for Business and Society - video of Dr. Sterman's MIT Sloan 2008 Convocation presentation. It is a version of the talk presented on February 5th.
Sustainable Building Design at MIT: Walking the Talk - video of a lecture moderated by Dr. Sterman on making the MIT campus and the larger world more sustainable.
A Sober Optimist's Guide to Sustainability - explores how to get people to think for real on sustainability, why the conventional wisdom about energy is just a myth, and how to live as if there’s just enough time left to save the world.
Climate Flight Simulator
Bathtub Dynamics and Climate Change - Dr Sterman's climate flight simulator. Some of his other flight simulators can be found on his Management Flight Simulator page.
Other Climate Change and Sustainability Information Sources
Sustainability at MIT Sloan - Sloan's Sustainability site.
IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change site, including the AR4 Synthesis Report as well as its full text.
NCDC - NOAA's National Climactic Data Center page with resources on climate, including a summary of AR4: Global Warming: Frequently Asked Questions.
NOAA - the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate page.
US Environmental Protection Agency - the EPA's Climate Change resource page.