Fractals, fossil fuels and effective change

Words matter, and by extension so, too, do conceptualizing and framing. We’ve endured the world’s leaders failing to take effective action on the climate emergency. A pair of University of Toronto political scientists argue that the way to break through the resistance, inertia and impotence is to reframe the problem using a new metaphor.

From the abstract of their essay in Nature Climate Change:

The international community has treated climate change as an emissions reduction challenge, drawing on the analytical metaphor of the global commons, and thus the politics of collective action and international cooperation. So far, these strategies have failed to produce an effective global response. We propose decarbonization as the defining challenge and a new guiding metaphor for the problem structure: the global fractal. This metaphor aptly describes the decarbonization challenge, capturing the multilevel and interdependent nature of carbon lock-in and the fractal carbon trap facing decarbonization efforts.

I like putting the focus on ditching fossil fuels rather than reducing emissions. I also like how this framing supports two tenets of climate activism: disrupt the political and economic forces that prop up the fossil fuel industry, and individual and local actions matter.