Embracing Uncertainty: Scenario Planning for Climate Change-security Challenges and Opportunities

Open Access
Read, Mark Robert
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 03, 2014
Committee Members:
  • William Ewart Easterling Iii, Dissertation Advisor
  • William Ewart Easterling Iii, Committee Chair
  • Cynthia Ann Brewer, Committee Member
  • John Anthony Kelmelis, Committee Member
  • Petra Tschakert, Committee Member
  • Bryan Lee Mcdonald, Committee Member
  • Elizabeth Malone, Special Member
  • scenario planning
  • environmental security
  • climate change
  • national security
  • foresight
The relationship between climate change and security represents a subset of the growing field of environmental security, and a new area of multidisciplinary research. Although climate change is now discussed in U.S. national security policy and doctrine, scholarly research linking climate change and security has been debated, and has not yet adequately dealt with high levels of uncertainty in the associated complex socio-environmental systems. Scenario planning represents a strategic planning methodology with roots in post World War II military planning. Since the mid-1980s, scenario planning has been employed extensively in the business community, and recently has been applied to complex socio-environmental problems. Scenario planning is well suited for studying highly uncertain problems. This dissertation seeks to understand how scenario planning can be applied to understand and plan in light of climate change-security challenges and opportunities. The dissertation examines past climate change-security scenarios, including interviews with scenario participants and practitioners. A case study examines a scenario planning exercise that employs a novel method, foresight scenario planning, to understand climate change-security issues in Vietnam. The findings suggest that foresight scenario planning provides a simple, effective method to understand and plan through uncertainty related to climate change-security problems, and can be useful for conducting multilevel scenario planning and identifying surprise. The dissertation contributes to a small body of scenario planning theory, and also assesses foresight scenario planning methods, proposing improvements for future scenario planning exercises that employ this simple but useful strategic planning tool.