Nature and Biodiversity

This is the tool that will help policymakers tackle the climate crisis

The climate crisis is deeply interconnected, so how do we get to grips with it?

The climate crisis is deeply interconnected, so how do we get to grips with it? Image: Unsplash/Mika Baumeister

Bryonie Guthrie
Practice Lead, Foresight and Organizational Transformation, World Economic Forum
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Climate and Nature

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate

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  • The climate crisis is growing increasingly urgent as it plays out in interconnected ways.
  • Understanding the systemically interconnected nature of global issues allows public servants to garner key developments that could impact their work.
  • The World Economic Forum’s “Strategic Intelligence” tool unpacks the complex nature of climate change by combining human and machine intelligence to draw on vast knowledge, insights and thought leadership.

Look under any proverbial rock and you will find a climate change article. Often terrifying and always urgent, the ever-presence of climate disaster reporting means this topic is at the top of most people’s minds, including policy-makers and public servants.

It may feel as though we are running on pure adrenalin trying to keep up with the climate crisis. New reports, multiple disasters, unexpected implications, addressing the deniers, aligning the politicians, listening to the scientists, responding to the emergencies. It’s overwhelming.

There is, however, a silver lining – everyone is prioritizing this problem. The most brilliant minds in the world are directed at solving climate change, mitigating its effects and laying the basis for a climate-friendly future.

Have you read?

Interconnected nature

If we look at the latest International Energy Agency (IEA) report, they have just delivered their largest-ever upward revision of the renewable power forecast. There is, additionally, the news that “the largest geothermal energy producer in the Philippines has spearheaded a new alliance with corporate giants to achieve carbon neutrality” and that the 1.5°C global warming limit is still within our grasp if we choose to make changes now.

Ironically, the IEA forecast comes off the back of another major crisis – the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has “sparked unprecedented momentum for renewables.” In the Philippines, the alliance works because corporates have carefully scanned the horizon and seen the need to reduce their impact on the environment as a priority for their consumer base. Alliance members also know that this is likely to be enforced by regulation.

All of these examples illustrate the deeply interconnected nature of the climate crisis. As with all global challenges, it operates in a complex system and impacts both upstream- and downstream-related issues.

Understanding the systemically interconnected nature of global issues allows public servants to get a sense of key developments that may impact their work. For example, public servants working on climate change might be keen to learn more about the potential of green hydrogen. Or that scaling the Internet of Things can support data capture, which is helpful for policy research around resource availability and climate change.

Unpacking the climate crisis

The World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform can visually capture these interdependencies by surfacing and visualizing knowledge using transformation maps. As a platform combining human and machine intelligence, it can play a real and impactful role in unpacking the complex nature of climate change and other global issues.

It works by drawing on the Forum’s extensive network of experts, who provide their inputs by identifying, unpacking and explaining the key issues driving transformational change on the headline topic. These issues form the inner ring of each transformation map. The experts are asked to write for an intelligent, non-expert audience in concise packages of 300 or so words, thus providing an understandable, digestible and thorough overview of the topic without overwhelming the reader.

There is a great deal of knowledge (and even partnerships) to tap into when facing the challenge of climate change.

Bryonie Guthrie, Content and Partnerships Lead, Strategic Intelligence, World Economic Forum Geneva

Each key issue identified by the expert operates in a dynamic system of interconnections and the machine intelligence of the platform kicks in via two methods. First, using natural language processing, the machine connects each key issue to other maps in the Strategic Intelligence ecosystem – the outer ring of the map – and these connections visually demonstrate the systemic nature of the topic and interconnections that may otherwise have been overlooked.

For example, tackling the transition to clean energy on the climate change map requires cognizance of electricity, batteries, green new deals etc. These are all maps the reader can access and thus start to build their understanding of the topic and the system in which it operates.

The second role of machine intelligence is populating the feed. Alongside every transformation map is a feed featuring top-tier publications, data and rich media from think tanks, universities, industry leaders, civil society and international and public organizations. The Forum verifies the content on this feed, as we only source it from our trusted partners, enabling the reader to dive deep into any topics or key issues of interest to them.

Foundational for innovation

This combination allows the platform to unpack and explain complex topics, enabling more informed decision-making. It has proved itself capable of exactly this in a recent pilot project with a developing country government where Strategic Intelligence was foundational to research into innovative ideas to address key sustainable development goals.

The tool is available to all public servants and is one of the methods that could be considered for accessing exactly those brilliant minds tuned into the problem of climate change. Understanding the topic through the perspectives of experts and what others are working on will help open new areas of enquiry and research for public servants who may feel overwhelmed and uninspired in attempting to address this issue.

Indeed, it will remind each of us we are not alone – there is a great deal of knowledge (and even partnerships) out there to tap into when facing the challenge of climate change.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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