Levan Badzgaradze
Fires burning nearby a city in California at night.

Addressing climate change: The shift from Blueprints to Scramble

earth sciencePat Hamilton, Director, Climate Change, Energy & the EnvironmentOct 8, 2020

What does living in a Scramble world mean for climate change?

Eight years ago, a Science Museum colleague and I wrote a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation. Our goal was to use scenario planning to help catalyze community conversations about how to adapt to the climate changes already underway. 

During proposal writing, we learned of a pair of scenarios developed by Shell in 2010 and, in a departure from its previous practice, Shell released them to the public. The proposal was not funded, but the two Shell scenarios labeled “Blueprints” and “Scramble” have stayed with me because they imagined two very different, but possible futures.

Two climate scenarios

In Blueprints, international agreements lead to preemptive actions that are able to outpace climate change. In Scramble, inabilities to concur on policies lead to disjointed choices, so climate change outpaces decisive action.

From the Paris Agreement reached on December 12, 2015, to when the U.S. announced its withdrawal effective November 4, 2020, the world has shifted from Blueprints to Scramble. 

Where are we now?

The once-future Scramble scenario has become our lived reality. The fragmented and inadequate actions on climate change in the past five years mean that some opportunities are now beyond the realm of possibility. We will all live in the Scramble world for a long time to come.

The Scramble world does not signify that addressing climate change is now futile. In fact, it is more important than ever. However, Scramble does mean we will need to work harder and faster than would have been necessary under the Blueprints scenario. Significant climate crises are now inevitable, and their occurrences will further impede our work to create a more just and sustainable world.

This series of posts will explore ideas about how we individually and collectively adapt to the climate changes that are now inevitable while working to prevent future changes that can still be avoided. I hope that it will catalyze discussions so that we can accomplish more—better and faster—despite living in a Scramble world. If you'd like to talk with me about climate change and how it's impacting you (and what you're doing about it), you can find me on Twitter @PatrickHamilto2 or send me an email at phamilton@smm.org.