This module will help you develop scenarios and analyse them, either in terms of the impact they would have on existing policies, or the kinds of policies that would be needed in order for a particular scenario to unfold. The module provides the basis for an entire process for developing and analysing scenarios.
A scenario is not a prediction of what the future will be. Rather it is a description of how the future might unfold. Scenarios explore the possible, not just the probable, and challenge users to think beyond conventional wisdom. They support informed action by providing insights into the scope of the possible. They also can illustrate the role of human activities in shaping the future, and the links among issues, such as consumption patterns, environmental change and human impacts. In this way, they make use of the general
Scenarios were first used formally after World War II as a method for war game analysis. Their value was quickly recognized, and the use of scenarios for a number of other strategic planning applications developed. Today, scenario development is used in a wide variety of different contexts, ranging from political decision making to business planning, and from global environmental assessments to local community management.
There are hundreds of examples of scenarios developed during the last 30 years or so. A small number of examples are selected here to illustrate the range of scenarios that have been developed, from specific country/regional exercises to global visions of the future, covering a range of time frames from 10 to 100 years. The illustrations are the Mont Fleur scenarios for South Africa, the Global Environment Outlook (GEO-3 and GEO-4) scenarios and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios.
A range of processes has been used to produce scenarios. We can distinguish among these according to three overarching themes: project goal, process design and scenario content. Goals might include raising awareness, stimulating creative thinking and gaining insight into the way societal processes influence one another. An overriding goal is usually to directly or indirectly support decision making. Process design addresses aspects such as scope and depth of the analysis, the degree of quantitative and qualitative data used, and choices among stakeholder workshops, expert interviews or desk research. Scenario content focuses on composition of the scenarios (i.e., on the variables and dynamics in a scenario and how they interconnect).
While many different processes have been used to develop and analyse scenarios, most involve steps similar to ones used in this module, although emphasis on particular steps varies. The steps used in this module are grouped as follows:
Clarifying the Purpose and Structure of the Scenario Exercise
a. Establishing the nature and scope of the scenarios.
b. Identifying stakeholders and selecting participants.
c. Identifying themes, targets, indicators and potential policies.
Laying the Foundation for the Scenarios
d. Identifying drivers.
e. Selecting critical uncertainties.
f. Creating a scenario framework.
Developing and Testing the Actual Scenarios
g. Elaborating the scenario narratives.
h. Undertaking the quantitative analysis.
i. Exploring policy.
Communication and Outreach
A full scenario process would ideally involve going through each of the above steps. In many cases, however, the scenario development will be nested within an overall integrated environmental assessment and reporting process. Thus, to the extent possible, the scenario development should be pursued in concert with the other components of this process, such as those described in Modules 4 and 5 of this resource book. Furthermore, many times, particularly in a national-scale GEO-type process, we avoid developing completely new scenarios. Instead, scenarios at the national level are developed based on existing scenarios at a higher level (e.g., global and regional scenarios developed for GEO). This adoption and adaptation facilitates scenario development by providing the core information needed in the process, but can present significant challenges in terms of methodology and credibility of the results.