We’ve known about climate change for decades and some great minds have worked on tackling the problem, cumulatively a lot of hard work has been done, so why are we still facing the same problem?
Grint (2008), suggests that we have been looking at the problem in the wrong way, by trying to solve it like a puzzle with a single-line solution. But since climate change is a much more complex problem, traditional linear problem-solving techniques are inadequate.
To have any chance of success, we must take into account a wealth of variables including socioeconomic factors and complicated chemistry, but due to the hugeness of the problem, any solution can have impacts in unexpected ways.
Levin et al. (2012) described climate change as a ‘super wicked problem’, categorised as having the following ‘wicked problem’ characteristics:
- No unique “correct” view of the problem;
- Different views of the problem and contradictory solutions;
- Most problems are connected to other problems;
- Data are often uncertain or missing;
- Multiple value conflicts;
- ideological and cultural constraints;
- Political constraints;
- Economic constraints;
- Often a-logical or illogical or multi-valued thinking;
- Numerous possible intervention points;
- Consequences difficult to imagine;
- Considerable uncertainty, ambiguity;
- Great resistance to change; and,
- Problem solver(s) out of contact with the problems and potential solutions.
(as described by Horn (2007))
Along with the following additional characteristics:
- Time is running out.
- No central authority.
- Those seeking to solve the problem are also causing it.
- Policies discount the future irrationally.
It is a problem faced by everyone as individuals and as groups (such as businesses and governments and we are really only beginning the journey of tackling it. However, time is far from plentiful and the effects have already been devastating.
Grint (2008): Grint, K. Wicked Problems and Clumsy Solutions: the Role of Leadership. In: Clinical Leader, Volume I Number II, 2008
Levin (2009): Levin, K.; Cashore, B.; Bernstein, S.; Auld, G. “Playing it forward: Path dependency, progressive incrementalism, and the “Super Wicked” problem of global climate change”, 2009
Horn (2007): Horn, Robert E., and Robert P. Weber; “New Tools For Resolving Wicked Problems: Mess Mapping and Resolution Mapping Processes”, Strategy Kinetics L.L.C., 2007