This Spotlight focuses on the really BIG questions facing societal and business responses to climate change. There are no simple answers to these questions, but trillions of dollars and billions of person-hours depend on how they are ultimately answered. This Climate Spotlight organizes extensive information and resources around each question, hopefully providing users with additional insight.
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To investigate specific questions, click on the respective question in the Spotlight.
- Are Climate Risks Sneaking Up on Us? There are many ways in which climate change can generate societal and business risks. Are we correctly accounting for all of them?
- Are Scientists Understating Climate Risks? This could be (if true) because they don’t want to appear alarmist, because they focus on the “expected” rather than the “unknown,” or because there’s a lot they don’t understand about many of the potential risks.
- Can Communication Barriers be Overcome? Most barriers to progress on climate change are communications-based. Considerable advice exists on overcoming communications barriers, but will that advice be followed?
- Have We Crossed a Policy Tipping Point? Scientists have been raising the alarm on climate change for more than 30 years. Does the combination of local and state actions—and the business and policy commitments made at the 2015 Paris Conference of the Parties—suggest that we’ve crossed a key tipping point in responding to climate change? Will efforts to address climate change only accelerate from here, making the next 30 years radically different from the last 30 years?
- Why is Solving Climate Change So Difficult? It’s tempting to think of climate change as “just” an engineering problem that can be solved quickly or “just” an economic problem that can be solved as soon as everyone has the necessary economic information. However, climate change is a wicked problem, with each proposed solution creating problems of its own. What factors make climate change such a wicked problem?
- Will a Low-Carbon Transition Come 2 Degrees Too Late? It’s a safe bet that the global economy will ultimately transition to low-carbon fuel sources. What’s less clear is whether that will take a few decades or more than a century. Moreover, the climate change trajectories of these two scenarios differ radically. What issues are involved in assessing how the transition to a low carbon economy will occur?
- Will a Successful Social Movement Step Up? There is a great deal of attention today to the idea of a climate change movement taking shape. But some social movement experts are skeptical of the ability of a movement to coalesce around this problem, as opposed to the movements for civil rights or gay marriage. What are issues are involved in assessing whether an effective movement will develop?
- Will Business Step Up on Climate Change? Hundreds of companies made reduction commitments in the lead-up to the Paris Conference of the Parties. Can companies take steps in the absence of coordinated policy that will make a big difference on climate change in the absence of coordinated policy? Can companies step in to substitute for lacking climate policies? How can such hypotheses be effectively understood and evaluated?
- Will We Go With Door #2 – Adaptation? We are seeing increasing attention being given to resilience to and adaptation to climate change. Will we, over time, see Door #2 as an alternative to Door #1 – Mitigation? Adaptation can be presented as a much easier outcome to accomplish, avoiding as it does the need for forward-looking mitigation policies that have proven so difficult to put into place. But is Door #2 really an alternative to Door #1?Can Communication Barriers be Overcome? Most barriers to progress on climate change are communications-based. Considerable advice exists on overcoming communications barriers, but will that advice be followed?
The Climate Web organizes extensive information around these BIG Questions. Users can take that information further in the Climate Web to explore and clarify the best thinking of the many physical and social science experts working on these questions. This Spotlight makes it easy for users to track the evolution of this work.