Rehearsing, predicting and speculating on climate futures

A major new research project based at the Sheffield School of Architecture aims to examine climate change scenarios and their role in rehearsing, predicting and speculating on the future.

Image of earth from NASA

Scenarios are a common method of getting a better grip on the future, particularly when it is understood to be in crisis. The effect humans are having on climate change places particular demands on the future – a future humanity is expected to prepare for and increasingly shape.

Professor Renata Tyszczuk has been awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for her new Collective Scenarios research project. The project will produce a cultural history of scenarios, revealing the under-acknowledged origins, practices and assumptions of scenario building for climate futures.

The project will uncover the relationships between scenario-based methods in various disciplines. This will bring together work on the calculative technologies of the climate science policy interface, the narrative processes in science fiction, and the anticipation strategies in projects for future ecosystems and urban design.

The research will be organised around three themes: rehearsing, predicting and speculating on climate changed futures. It will involve interviews with climate researchers from different disciplines and scenario-based workshops and seminars.

The research will explore the potential of collective scenario-making for future modes of inhabitation. The study will lead to a monograph and an online open-access resource of research materials on the past, present and future of scenarios of climate change.

The Leverhulme Major Research Fellowships are awarded annually to well-established, distinguished researchers in the humanities and social sciences to complete a piece of original research.


Scenario thinking is already a prominent strand in climate science and policy where it draws on predictive scientific knowledge, based on computer models and simulations.

Scenarios are also currently deployed in the wider culture in various ways:

  • Through risk and foresight industries
  • In contingency and adaptation planning for urban futures
  • In the back casting and forecasting of business strategies
  • For the speculative design practices that engage with future lifestyles
  • For the imaginings of climate or science fiction