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This chapter examines the role of imagination when reflecting projected climate change impacts in assumptions of future environmental and social conditions. While it is clear that some nations will reach limits of environmental and social adaptation to climate change sooner than those that are highly developed, several current benefits gained from having a high adaptive capacity will diminish with recurrent impacts of unprecedented and extreme weather events. Therefore, adaptation options may become more limited in industrialised countries that continue to invest resources in inappropriate long-term infrastructure without taking into account the non-stationary climate system. This research aims to better understand how individuals with currently high adaptive capacity use imagination to inform subjective views of possible climate change, in order to deduce the role of imagining the future when considering adaptation strategies and actions. The chapter is informed by a study of researchers, policy makers, and practitioners in Australia and Canada that is focused on the intersections of climate change knowledge, narrative communication, future thinking, and change over time. Results indicate that these decision-makers are limited in discussing and imagining themselves as vulnerable to climate change over the next two decades. This study suggests that behaviour to address near-term climate impacts may be limited by (1) a lack of perceived personal vulnerability; (2) little sense of urgency; and (3) expectations of societal interventions. It is concluded that low levels of imagination may place significant limits on the adaptive effectiveness of current infrastructure investments, with long-term consequences. This work aims to highlight the value of a higher capacity in imaginative future thinking among decision-makers; to better understand the context for ongoing shifts in climate change knowledge; and to guide new framing for climate narratives that reflect projected direct and indirect impacts of climate change.
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- The Limits of Imagination
- Chapter 12