How to Solve the Super Wicked Problem of Global Climate Change - Benjamin Cashore

Professor Benjamin Cashore's plenary presentation to the International Conference on Public Policy, (Montreal, June 2019) argues that we are applying the wrong policy tools to address the super wicked problems of climate change and massive species extinctions.


Instead of treating them as Type 1 (Commons), Type 2 (Optimization) and Type 3 (Compromise) problems, as most policy analysts working for governments, businesses, and the United Nations have done for the last 30 years, they ought to be conceived of as Type 4 Prioritization challenges.


Type 4 problems require very different policy tools, such as "path dependency analysis", that turns attention to uncovering "easy to pull" but "hard to reverse" policy levers. Cashore argues that finding policy triggers capable of building transformative pathways that reflect our profound collective humility and long term interests in averting ecological catastrophes, is the fundamental challenge facing humanity. The tragedy is that Type 1, 2 and 3 conceptions develop policy tools that view enhancing human material interests as the solution, rather than the cause, of the super wicked problem of global climate change.


Please watch the complete speech below.




Benjamin Cashore is Professor of Environmental Governance & Political Science at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is courtesy joint appointed in Yale’s Department of Political Science and is a Senior Research Fellow at the Yale MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. He is the Director of the Governance, Environment and Markets (GEM) Initiative at Yale and is the Joseph C. Fox Faculty Director of the Yale International Fox Fellows Program. He pursues his research agenda on public and private governance through three thematic efforts: policy change and policy learning; intervening to address ‘super wicked’ problems, and the influence of globalization and internationalization on domestic policy processes. His substantive research interests include climate policy, land use change, and sustainable forest management/deforestation challenges.



Cashore, B., & Bernstein, S. (2019). Bringing the Environment Back In: Overcoming the Tragedy of the Diffusion of the Commons Metaphor.


Cashore, B., Bernstein, S., Humphreys, D., Visseren-Hamakers, I., & Rietig, K. (2019). Designing stakeholder learning dialogues for effective global governance. Policy and Society, 38(1), 118-147.


Cashore, B., (2019) “Bringing Bio environmentalists and Social Greens Back in: Reflections on Fostering Transformative Change within US Based Professional Environmental Schools.” 


Cashore, B., (2019) et al., Introduction, “Private Authority and Public Policy in Global Context: Governance Spheres for Problem Solving.”