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Our imaginations can help create new climate possibilities

August 9, 2022

Storytelling can help us imagine different versions of our shared future. For example, Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel Ministry for the Future describes a world where an oppressive heatwave in India — bearing uncanny resemblance to recent events — spurs unprecedented action on climate change. In that storyline, climate damages result in societal tipping points, leading to transformation.

Though fictional, the book raises a very real question: Can the human capacity to imagine alternate climate futures actually help generate new, more hopeful realities?

Research suggests it can. A new study out of Utrecht University in the Netherlands demonstrates how one idea of an acceptable climate future, even if it is once viewed as unrealistic, can gain traction and eventually guide real-world climate policy commitments.

In this piece for Yale Climate Connections, AGCI’s James Arnott and Energy Innovation Policy & Technology LLC®’s Sarah Spengeman explore how humans’ capacity to imagine can help create new and more hopeful climate realities and boost citizen engagement.