Today’s dominant metaphor for tackling climate change is arguably that of a 1,000,000 piece jigsaw puzzled, envisioned in 2010 by Australian cartoonist Neil XX. In this framing of the climate problem everyone works in their own climate silo, and somehow all the pieces are supposed to come together. It’s sort of like expecting enough chimpanzees with typewriters to eventually recreate Shakespeare.

The good news about a jigsaw metaphor is that it at least gets us away from the idea of silver bullet solutions to climate change, and instead directs us to a lot of silver buckshot.

The bad news about a jigsaw methaphor is that it encourages everyone to see the piece of the jigsaw puzzle they are working on as equally important to other piece. In practice, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Different kinds of climate initiatives have very different “mitigation potentials,” will vary widely in their ability to be successfully implemented at a particular point in time, and will face very different barriers.

What if, instead of a huge pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces, we envisioned those same initiatives as chess pieces on a planetary gameboard. You intuitively see that different pieces have different potentials and moves and that your team is more likely to succeed by collaborating. You also quickly grasp that there’s not just one team on the board, there are two.

Let’s look at little more closely at the analogies between conventional chess and Climate Chess. Conventional chess involves two teams, composed of pieces with different capabilities and moves, with millions of game permutations. And while some piece are much more powerful than others going in, any piece can be critical to winning the game.

Climate Chess can be thought of similarly, as we’ll explore more on the next page of this Climate Site. It’s possible to think of the many constituencies involved in climate change as being part of one team or another - Team Urgency or Team No-Urgency. Players and pieces have different skills, capabilities, and resources, in other words different moves they can make. And there are huge number of potential permutations.

The next page will introduce you to the two teams engaged in playing Climate Chess.