September 22, 2021
Probable Futures Urges Courage and Imagination on Climate
Dynamic digital experience makes climate data accessible and empowering
BOSTON – A growing community of leaders across culture, business, technology, and design joined scientific experts today to launch Probable Futures, a new digital experience designed to help people explore and internalize the urgent and growing challenges posed by climate instability.
“Our economy, institutions, and communities are all built on the foundation of a stable climate, and for 12,000 years, that stability was a constant—until now,” said Spencer Glendon, the founder of Probable Futures. “The Probable Futures platform is designed for people to explore the various climate scenarios that we likely cannot avoid so they can prepare. More importantly, by vividly showing the brutal, irreversible consequences of further warming, we believe the platform can help prompt recognition, courage, and imagination to truly transform society for the better.”
Probable Futures is supported by world-class experts, with data analyzed by an experienced team at Woodwell Climate Research Center. The platform and tools help illustrate climate science with a compelling combination of data and storytelling and encourage people to consider their area of influence, from their company’s business model to what they eat or what they teach their children. The science is intuitive enough to integrate into any decision-making process and to internalize personally.
The climate data underpinning the platform is well established and widely used in the science and climate policy communities, and the maps, stories, and insights are publicly available to all. Probable Futures launched today with its first volume: heat. In the coming months, the platform will add new content and maps that visualize predictive modeling on drought and precipitation.
“This time in human history is unprecedented. We are living through a few short decades when we have the knowledge and the ability to change the course of the future,” said Alison Smart, Executive Director of Probable Futures. “We’re committed through this initiative to help people learn what further climate instability will bring, plan for it, and together, imagine futures which are both positive and accepting of the climate challenges we need to address.”
In partnership with the team at Woodwell, Probable Futures leveraged well-established global and regional climate models to produce maps depicting climate outcomes around the world and at different increments of global warming.
“The data is not new, nor is it controversial, and yet seeing it illustrated in this way is both compelling and troubling, even for those of us who have studied climate change for decades,” said Christopher R. Schwalm, Risk Program Director at Woodwell. “The journey that Probable Futures brings users on is useful and profound, and we are hopeful that making this information accessible will help more people from all over the world and from all walks of life strengthen their resolve to think and act differently.”
If we make no changes and continue the current trajectory, the earth is likely to pass critical thresholds for built infrastructure, human health, and ecological viability to support civilization as it exists today. Probable Futures aims to underscore the universality of those impacts, and help users develop a mindset for understanding and responding to the risks we face.
“I spend much of my time writing, teaching, and helping investors prepare for climate change, but often the dialogue is at either a level of abstraction, like ‘existential threat,’ or a level of specificity, as in ‘1.5 or 2 degrees C,’ that is not necessarily actionable. Probable Futures bridges that gap and fills a critical void in the climate conversation,” said Alicia Seiger, managing director of Stanford University’s Sustainable Finance Initiative. “They are translating climate science into peoples’ daily lives, compelling us to pay attention and more deeply reflect on and integrate climate science into our decision-making.”