What Design Can Do For The Climate

How can designers tackle a problem as complex as climate change? That was the question we were faced with when we partnered with What Design Can Do to do the research for their Climate Action Challenge, which launches today, 23 May 2017.

In collaboration with WDCD and their partners the IKEA Foundation and the Autodesk Foundation, STBY did the research, wrote the briefs and put together background information for the Challenge, which is open to students, start-ups and professionals. The winning candidates will receive funding and the chance to go through an acceleration programme to realise their idea.

Climate change is global, it’s local, and it affects every aspect of our lives. It’s the most pressing problem of our time, but it’s so mind-boggling deep and broad that it’s hard to grasp. You can slice it a million ways — looking at how it will cause water shortages, or how refugees will increase, or how women will be disproportionately affected, or what kind of foods will become unavailable, or what it means for our diet, clothing, travel, or consumer electronics — and still only touch on a tiny corner of the problem.

Our job was to make sense of it, and to help designers understand the problem so that they could design solutions for it. The central question for our research was: What can design do for climate change?

To find the answer to that question, our research covered an enormous amount of material. Much of that is available in the information packs that we helped to make, which are now available on the Challenge platform.

Here are some of the background resources that we found useful for understanding the problem. We will be regularly updating this page with sources and references for each of the topics.

Telling the Story of Climate Change

Our Paths to Climate Change

This article by a digital anthropologist, investigates people’s lifestyles and how they are affected by their awareness of and concern for climate change. The author discusses ethnographic research used to uncover insights on the associations and behaviours individuals have towards climate change.

The World is Running Wild: The Anthropology of Climate Change

Climate change is all accelerating too violently and too fast — and we lack the restricting mechanisms that would slow us down, says Thomas Hylland Eriksen, professor in Anthropology at the University of Oslo. Eriksen offers a perspective on why humans struggle to act on climate change. He suggests our desire for jobs and growth are at odds with our need to fight climate change, and discusses the effects of globalisations on local communities.


A group of film makers set out to make sense of climate change, covering food, energy, economy, urban life and more. It is an inspiring and invigorating film, looking at the people who are already living in new ways and offering solutions. Rarely for something focusing on climate change, it leaves the viewer with a sense of hope. 

Heat of the Moment, Everyday Life on a Changing Planet

Heat of the Moment is a long-term project about climate change, led by WBEZ Chicago. It’s a collection of everyday stories on how lives are affected by climate change.


Climate Change: Authoritative Resources 

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Comprehensive report by the United States’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessing the impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability of climate change around the world.

Poverty and Climate Change: Reducing the Vulnerability of the Poor through Adaptation

While climate change is a global phenomenon, its negative impacts are more severely felt by poor people and poor countries. They are more vulnerable because of their high dependence on natural resources, and their limited capacity to cope with climate variability and extremes. Experience suggests that the best way to address climate change impacts on the poor is by integrating adaptation responses into development planning. The objective of this document is to contribute to a global dialogue on how to mainstream and integrate adaptation to climate change into poverty reduction efforts.

Rapid, Climate-Informed Development Needed to Keep Climate Change from Pushing More than 100 Million People into Poverty by 2030

A World Bank report shows that climate change is an acute threat to poorer people across the world, with the power to push more than 100 million people back into poverty over the next fifteen years.  And the poorest regions of the world – Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia – will be hit the hardest.

The facts on climate change — and what to do about it

A PBS NewsHour clip on scientific facts about the causes of climate change.

NASA, Responding to Climate Change

NASA’s role is to make detailed climate data available to the global community, including the public, policy- and decision-makers, and scientific and planning agencies.

Earth Day 2016: Find Out What Environmental Problems 20 Latin American Countries Face

This article explains some of the problems relating to global warming in Central and South America. A lot of these problems pose serious threats to Latin America’s natural resources. Many countries in this region are looking at adaptation approaches to improve resilience to climate impacts.

EPA, Adapting to Climate Change

The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s overview on climate change adaptation.

WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016

Every year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issues a Statement on the State of the Global Climate. This latest report confirms that 2016 was the warmest year on record: a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes in the climate system. Globally averaged sea-surface temperatures were also the warmest on record; global sea levels continued to rise; and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year.

Climate Change Performance Index 2017

A publication issued by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe, comparing the 58 top CO2 emitting nations. To demonstrate existing measures more accurately and to encourage steps toward effective climate policy, the CCPI methodology was evaluated in 2012 and continues to be improved. Under the Paris Agreement, climate action was anchored in the context of international law. This requires countries to make their own unique contribution to the prevention of dangerous climate change. The next crucial step to follow this agreement is the rapid implementation by the signing parties of concrete measures to make their individual contributions to the global goal. For the past 12 years, the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) has been keeping track of countries’ efforts in combating climate change.