Transition Scenario Methods

History has an important role in all cultures. We understand ourselves by knowing about our ancestors, and the history of our people provides a rich context of language, belief, values, art, law, philosophy, style and technology, etc. Universities have History departments, but what role does the future have in our personal lives or in the sensibilities of our people? The current obsession with growth in wealth and consumption implies a profound future blindness. If we are future blind regarding personal things like aging and retirement, then how do we expect to use future scenarios to inform our current decision making for things as important as changing the climate of the planet?  Economics uses a discount rate to essentially wipe out the view of the future. 

Microsoft released the first version of Excel for Mac in 1985. The spreadsheet tool for the first time provided the graph, and the ability to predict the play of trends into the future.  While most people can learn to use a spreadsheet, and nearly everyone believes a graph, our future blindness is still a problem. 

The Transition Engineering field currently uses 5 types of scenarios. Each type has been developed to deal with particular types of energy and material technology and end use questions. Our scenario methods have been designed to deal with the problems of future blindness and to communicate technical facts to a wide and non-technical community. Most engineering projects don't involve psychology to any great extent. In contrast, the project of developing a transition scenario has mostly psychological requirements. The primary objective for transition scenarios is to inform communities, investors and policy makers about what current trends and investments are good opportunities and which pose risks. The aim of a transition scenario is to develop a rigorous analysis of the probability of different technical developments within a timeframe, and to communicate what will happen and what probably will not. 

retro-historical scenario


Business-as-usual scenario


technology wedge scenario


Virtuous consumption scenario


forward operating environment


path-break future concept