Transformative scenarios in a climate-challenged world

The Transformative Scenarios in a Climate-challenged World resources were designed with and for emergency services, to test their existing strategies and practices against a set of plausible futures that we are likely to see between now and 2035.

The resources are based on research lead by Reos Partners in collaboration with RMIT University, through the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC’s Preparing emergency services for operations in a climate-challenged world project. Lead researchers of this project were Geoff Brown and Stephen Atkinson from Reos Partners, and Prof Lauren Rickards and Dr Adriana Keating from RMIT University. The project was supported by the AFAC Climate Change Group, who were actively engaged in the development of the scenarios and case studies.

The research team worked with emergency service leaders to develop four distinct and plausible scenarios for what Australia and New Zealand may look like in 2035. These scenarios are based on the scientific consensus that there will be a continuation of existing climate trends, and an increasing volatility, frequency and magnitude of weather extremes.

Each scenario reveals different degrees and combinations of governance (for example, long-term strategic governance) and social cohesion (for example, strong community support).

Who can use these resources:

Rather than being a predictive tool, these resources were designed as a package of information that organisations that are exposed to the risks and impacts of natural hazards can use independently and adapt as needed, including emergency management agencies, government departments, community organisations, state-level agencies and other organisations. 

The resources enable organisational leaders to take the four plausible future scenarios, consider the future risks of hazards, apply probable climate change, and then use these scenarios to stress-test their organisation’s existing strategies and plans. This allows leaders to explore how well their businesses will deliver services in 2035 under each of the plausible futures, and to test the likely effectiveness of adaptation strategies. 

How to use the resources:

Using a ‘board game’ analogy, organisations can use the pieces (the resources) to explore how well their current and forward-looking organisational planning will prepare them for a climate change-affected future. 

Stage 1: the ‘board’:

  • The four transformative scenarios form the ‘board’, or foundation, describing the plausible futures in which your services will be tested between now and 2035. You first need to understand the four scenarios and how they can be applied to your organisation. 
  • To do this, read the first two documents (below): An introduction to alternative futures in the EM sector and A guide for using scenarios in the emergency management sector. 
  • These two documents allow you to compare and contrast the scenarios developed by this research, and you can then tweak the existing scenarios or create your own new ones, using the contents of the guide. 
  • You can use the third document, Emergency management sector case studies as worked examples, to see some worked examples of how this approach can be used. 

An introduction to alternative futures in the EM sector: introducing you to the concept of transformative scenarios, the four plausible futures for emergency management services and how they were developed. 

A guide for using scenarios in the emergency management sector: a practical guide for application of the scenarios, including interactive elements for teams to use to future-scope and brainstorm. 

Emergency management sector case studies as worked examples: case studies showing real-world examples of emergency services that are already using transformative scenarios to guide their strategies.

Stage 2: the ‘hazard piece’ :

  • Throughout the previous documents, you will have seen the Climate Hazard Event Map. 
  • This map is used to introduce and visualise the hazard exposures that will impact your organisation’s services within the plausible future scenarios. It is just one example of a timeline of hazards that are possible between 2021 and 2035, and can be used to understand the implications of different hazard types and magnitudes. 
  • You can also use the Blank Climate Hazard Event Map to develop your own hazard profile(s). You can do this as many times as you need to in order to test varying types and magnitudes of hazards that might impact your services. 

Blank Climate Hazard Event Map:

Stage 3: the ‘climate risk piece’ :

  • Once you have a clear understanding of the scenarios as the foundation and the hazard exposures that are likely to cause impact, you can add a ‘climate risk piece’ (called Climate Wildcards) to stress-test each of the scenarios against likely or imagined climate change-induced impacts. 
  • The Climate Wildcards – included in A guide for using scenarios in the emergency management sector – present a few possible climate or weather predictions. They allow you to stress-test your services beyond the foundational scenarios or hazard piece, to test the robustness (or lack thereof) of organisational capabilities and development strategies. 

Final stage: further research and methodology:

  • At any stage, you may want to know more information about the research behind the transformative scenarios, including how they were developed alongside emergency service leaders, or key findings relevant to climate change adaptation and literature. The documents in this section can be used to learn more. 

Preparing emergency services for operations in a climate-challenged world – summary report: a report summarising the research behind the transformative scenarios and how they were developed alongside emergency service leaders. 

Implications of climate change for emergency services operations – insights from the literature: a literature review and key findings relevant to climate change adaptation, including the impacts and risks, how adaptation looks in the emergency management sector and the literature that supports the four transformative scenarios.  

Research methodology for scenario development: the methodology that led to the development of the transformative scenarios.