Climate emergency: using systems analysis and systems thinking to solve it

Systems thinking helps make sense of the complexity of the world by looking at it in terms of wholes and relationships. Mella thinks this will help us navigate through the complexity to working solutions

If the accelerating global warming continues for longer than a few more years, it is highly likely we will be trapped on a planet committed to runaway warming. The accumulating daily evidence on the accelerating rates of rising greenhouse gas concentrations paint an appalling picture. If the resulting warming cannot be stopped and reversed, this will lead to global mass extinction within two or three human generations (if not sooner). We will need systems thinking to help us find paths to solutions..

Australia has a large and potentially quite capable academic and institutional infrastructure for understanding and developing solutions for climate problems. However, given the unique and complex nature of Earth’s Climate System and the rapid changes that are taking place the usual reductionist approaches of normal science are unlikely to find a navigable pathway through the problems. A more holistic systems thinking approach helps to identify and map out the major areas and levels of organization where problems need to be solved. Systems engineers are a lot more comfortable working this way than are ‘normal’ scientists. Teams integrating both normal science and systems engineering should be able to navigate the rapidly changing shoals to bring escalating problem situations under control.

Unfortunately, Australia’s current LNP COALition Governments primary aim in power seems to be preventing any action on climate change that might impair their patrons in the fossil fuel and related industries. The resulting humbug, denial, disinformation, distraction and outright blocking and withdrawal of support for high level climate science has effectively stifled any significant progress towards solving the climate emergency. The fact that certain elements of the (mostly Murdoch) press also continue polluting the press and social media with all kinds of fake news, alternative facts and blather, works further to hide the lack of serious progress towards doing anything effective about the climate emergency.

Social alarm and the removal–consumption–production strategy.To highlight the components of this strategy, it is useful to group the multiple specific levers that can be implemented by different governments into only three macro-levers of control, indicated in the box on the left-hand side of the model

Global Warming: Is It (Im)Possible to Stop It? The Systems Thinking Approach

by Pierro Mella – Energies2022, 15(3), 705

Abstract: For some time, there has been a slow but gradual rise in the average temperature of the entire globe, a “global warming”, in fact, the result of human and natural processes that have been producing this phenomenon for decades. Since they are not directly perceived by individuals, these processes and their effects have been ignored for a long time, or at least not considered to be immediately harmful and dangerous.

Global warming does not depend so much on solar radiation as it does on the greenhouse effect deriving from the continuous emission, by human activities and natural events, of greenhouse gases that accumulate in the atmosphere and form a barrier to the dispersion of heat produced by solar radiation. A good number of models exists to explain how global warming is produced, which are technical in nature and consider the production of greenhouse gases as the most important cause; however, they do not always analyze and justify the reasons for such emissions.

Following the logic, language and methods of Senge’s systems thinking, the paper aims to present a general model, the GEAM—qualitative in nature, but rational and coherent—for highlighting the interacting factors that give rise to and maintain global warming. This model constitutes a reference framework to identify possible “strategic areas” within which to identify man-made “artificial” and “natural” factors that can control the phenomenon and to order the countless ideas and interventions that different nations carry out individually to control global warming.

Read the complete article….

What Mella outlines in his article should not be that difficult to implement – particularly if supported by a government that puts a high priority on acting on the climate emergency. Clearly, re-electing the LNP COALition will not provide that kind of support. If were are to leave a planet capable of providing a long-term future for our children and grandchildren we must replace the COALition fossil fuel industry puppets with trustworthy people who have committed themselves to put solving the climate emergency as their first order of business if elected.

To help you do this, the Vote Climate One group will provide Traffic Light Voting guides for every Federal Electorate that will help you preference candidates in an order that should avoid the risk that your most preferred candidates preferences will not flow to the fossil fuel puppets if they are not elected. We don’t tell you how to vote, but you will know that any candidate designated with a green light has convinced us that they will put action on the climate emergency as their first priority in Parliament. Amber light candidates might have other first priorities, but we think they can be counted on to cooperate with action on the emergency.

Posted by William P. Hall

Some call me a 'climate scientist'. I'm not. What I am is an 'Earth systems generalist'. Born in 1939, I grew up with passionate interests in both science and engineering. I learned to read from my father's university textbooks in geology and paleontology, and dreamed of building nuclear powered starships. Living on a yacht in Southern California I grew up surrounded by (and often immersed in) marine and estuarine ecosystems while my father worked in the aerospace engineering industry. After studying university physics for three years, dyslexia with numbers convinced me to change my focus to biology. I completed university as an evolutionary biologist (PhD Harvard, 1973). My principal research project involved understanding how species' genetic systems regulated the evolution and speciation of North America's largest and most widespread lizard genus. Then for several years as an academic biologist I taught a range of university subjects as diverse as systematics, biogeography, cytogenetics, comparative anatomy and marine biology. In Australia, from 1980, I was involved in various activities around the emerging and rapidly evolving microcomputing technologies culminating in 2 years involvement in the computerization of the emerging Bank of Melbourne. In 1990 I joined a startup engineering company that had just won the contract to build a new generation of 10 frigates for Australia and New Zealand. In 2007 I retired from the head office of Tenix Defence, then Australia's largest defence engineering contractor, after a 17½ year career as a documentation and knowledge management systems analyst and designer. At Tenix I reported to the R&D manager under the GM Engineering, and worked closely with support and systems engineers on the ANZAC Ship Project to solve documentation and engineering change management issues that risked the project 100s of millions of dollars in cost and years of schedule overruns. All 10 ships had been delivered on time, on budget to happy customers against the fixed-price and fixed schedule contract. Before, during, and after these two main gigs I also did a lot of other things that contribute to my general understanding of complex dynamical systems involving multiple components with non-linear and sometimes chaotically interacting components; e.g., 'Earth systems'. Earth's Climate System is the global heat engine driven by the transport and conversions of energy between the incoming solar radiation striking the planet, and the infrared radiation of heat away from the planet to the cold dark universe. As Climate Sentinel News Editor, my task is to identify and understand quirks and problems in the operation of this complex heat engine that threaten human existence, and explain to our readers how they can help to solve some of the critical issues that are threatening their own existence.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.