Week 3: Transitions

Transitions can be difficult.  The speed, scale and scope of the transformation being proposed for trajectories consistent with 1.5 °C in the recent IPCC Special Report (or even for a 2 °C target) are daunting, almost unimaginable.  In large part, skepticism is driven by the unprecedented nature of the change, which is seen as diverging from current expectations.  The nature of the transformation will require changes in how we support and finance energy supply, but also changes in demand for energy, the way we shape our cities and landscapes, our diets and our choices as consumers and as citizens.

Of course, dramatic transformations have occurred in the past, whether that it has been in terms of computing or regulatory phaseouts such as for lead in gasoline (back when the US was a leader in environmental protection) or ozone-depleting chemicals.  We have also seen dramatic social transformations in recent years, whether that is on acceptance of gay marriage or bans on tobacco in clubs and pubs.

  1. What do you believe are the biggest challenges to achieving the scale of emissions reductions needed? In other words, is the issue primarily a question of better technological solutions, or is the main impediment economic, social or cultural?
  2. Can you find other examples of dramatic transitions (at a national or global level) and explain (briefly) the constellation of events, interests and technological forces that brought about the changes?