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Using futures analysis to develop resilient climate change mitigation strategies

Report by Dr. Ajay Gambhir, Casey Cronin, Elin Matsumae, Dr. Joeri Rogelj, and Dr Mark Workman

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face this century, which is why so much effort has been invested in analysis of low-carbon pathways. Yet several other threats and potential disruptors are now emerging that could profoundly affect the long-term mitigation plans of policy makers, businesses, and other stakeholders. It is critical that analysts producing mitigation pathways consider a wide range of factors so that they can effectively support the development of mitigation plans that are as resilient as possible to these factors.

Key findings

  • Current strategies for climate change mitigation – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to stem climate change – need to be as resilient as possible to future developments. Otherwise they might have to be fundamentally re-thought or abandoned for more drastic, ill thought-out, or damaging courses of action.
  • Communities producing mitigation analysis should consider a far greater range of political, economic, technological, social, and environmental possibilities than they currently do, to secure this resilience.
  • Futures analysis methods such as qualitative scenarios, expert judgements, simulation and agent-based models, and even science fiction narratives should be used more frequently to complement the modeling approaches most commonly used.
  • Robust decision making and other scenario discovery approaches can be used to identify those mitigation strategies most resilient to the many plausible outcomes produced by our expanded methods and imaginations.
  • Policy makers should be aware of, and prepare for, the full range of potential challenges that will face their mitigation strategies in the coming years as a result of future developments.


This report was produced in partnership with the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London’s hub for climate change and the environment, and one of Imperial’s six Global Institutes established to promote inter-disciplinary working and to meet some of the greatest challenges faced by society.

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Published November 12, 2019