When I saw MIT Management Professor John Sterman's recent post "Adaptation or Mitigation, lessons from Abolition in the Battle over Climate Policy" I scrambled to almost-20-year-old files to recover notes from a Sloan Systems Dynamics class I audited. Check out these fascinating MIT System's Dynamics Simulations, created by Sterman for a fun dive into this great analysis tool. Sterman is the expert on system dynamics. However, I think his piece misses a crucial point. Climate adaptation is about human rights. Without adapting to climate change, we imperil the lives and livelihoods of billions of people around the globe. We must multiply our efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. While doing that, we must ensure that every decision we make about our futures is a climate-adaptive one. If we don’t, we will be ill-informed and ill-equipped about a real risk. Failing to plan for risks proves to be one of the most dangerous positions we can be in (and borne out by systems dynamics, where a negative feedback loop amplifies itself over and over again).
We are learning lessons every day from the realities of our era: population growth, migration, urbanization and food insecurity for starters. Climate change has joined these megatrends – and it compounds all of them. Fortunately, more and more tools help us be responsible climate champions. They help to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to build the resiliency and adaptive capacity of the communities where we live and work as well as the supply chain from climate change-related impacts. That’s the positive feedback loop of systems dynamics we should be employing. Those who don’t are oblivious to the issues of our time.
Raise a hand if you favor Sloan’s best minds about systems dynamics applying their systems theories to the dynamic behavior of your supply chain and keeping climate change in mind. I will bank on climate adaptation proving to be both a risk and an opportunity that deserves your closest attention.