The timeline charts important events and publications in the history of scenarios. It is not meant to be exhaustive and will inevitably be incomplete. Moreover, it is a simplification of a very tangled and non-linear history. It indicates some key references I have come across in my research and will use in writing the book of the Collective Scenarios project.


Flaminio Scala, publishes the first collection of 50 scenarios of Commedia dell' Arte plays, under the title Il Teatro delle Favole Rappresentative, translated as, The Theatre of Tales for Performance, also called the Scala collection. A recent partial translation (30 scenarios out of 50) was published in 2008: Richard Andrews (ed. & trans.) The Commedia dell’ Arte of Flaminio Scala: A Translation and Analysis of 30 Scenarios (The Scarecrow Press Inc: Plymouth UK, 2008).


On Thermonuclear War by Hermann Kahn, who at the time was working on the theory of deterrence at the RAND corporation, was published in 1960 at the height of the Cold War. Its premise is that nuclear war is possible, winnable and survivable. The book considers multiple possible nuclear-war scenarios, for example where hundreds of millions of people die and portions of the planet are uninhabitable for millennia or where major cities are annihilated.


Jay Forrester published Urban Dynamics in 1969. It presented a computer model describing the major internal forces controlling the balance of population, housing, and industry within an urban area, simulating the life-cycle of a city and predicting the impact of different solutions on the urban system. The urban dynamics model presented in the book was the first major non-corporate application of system dynamics and has since influenced many government urban-policy decisions.


Jay Forrester further developed the urban dynamics model publishing World Dynamics in 1971. Forrester had been invited by the Club of Rome following a meeting in 1970, to apply system dynamics to address the global crisis. He first developed a system dynamics model of the world's socioeconomic system called WORLD1, which was refined into the WORLD2 model presented in the book.


The Club of Rome-sponsored Limits to Growth (1972) — the so-called ‘doomsday report’ —was hastily published in time for the UN Stockholm Conference of the Environment in 1972 — the first ‘Earth Summit’.

Royal Dutch Shell plc’s first scenario-based report, issued in 1972, focused on telling plausible stories about how the wider business context of Shell might develop in the future. It detailed six scenarios, one of which looked at the possibility and consequences of an energy crisis, and potential for diversification. The 1973 OPEC crisis occurred soon after publication of Shell’s scenarios and established Shells’ reputation in being prepared for, and even predicting the future.


Hermann Flohn, ‘Climate and energy: a scenario to a 21st century problem’ Climatic Change 1977, 1: 5–20. The first scientific paper using the terminology of ‘scenario’ to describe possible future evolution of climate was published in 1977 by the German meteorologist Herman Flohn, in the very first issue of the new journal Climatic Change. (ref. Mike Hulme ‘’The First Climate Scenario: A Drama in Three Acts’ in Tyszczuk et al. (eds.) Culture and Climate Change: Scenarios (Cambridge: Shed, 2019); pp. 73–75 Culture and Climate Change).


James Hansen et al. ‘Global Climate Changes as Forecast by Goddard Institute for Space Studies Three-Dimensional Model’ Journal of Geophysical Research Vol 93, No. D8 pp.9341–9364, August 20 1988. The paper gives an account of examining scenarios using a NASA GISS 3D model between 1958 and 1988 and then seeing how this affects the modelled global climate up to 2060. (ref. ‘Timeline: the history of climate modelling’, Carbon Brief).


The IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) is published in 2000 and used in the IPCC’s third assessment report in 2001. (ref. ‘Timeline: the history of climate modelling’, Carbon Brief).

The ‘Anthropocene’, a proposed geological epoch is introduced in a research newsletter by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer. It recognises the significant human impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems including, but not limited to anthropogenic climate change, as understood through scenario mode- thinking back from the future. Crutzen, P.J. & Stoermer, E.F. (2000). "The 'Anthropocene'". Global Change Newsletter. 41: 17–18.


The Climate Change Act 2008 is an Act of the UK Parliament. It makes it the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the net UK carbon account for all six Kyoto greenhouse gases in the year 2050 is at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline, in order to avoid dangerous climate change.


Shell continues to develop possible visions of the future in response to energy and environmental issues. Its recent scenario work is published as ‘New Lens Scenarios’ (2013), followed by ‘New Lenses on Future Cities’ (2014) and ‘A Better Life with a Healthy Planet: Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions’ (2016).


The Paris Agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at COP 21 in Paris in 2015. The agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), deals with greenhouse- gas emissions mitigation adaptation and finance. Its long-term temperature goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, recognizing that this would substantially reduce the risks and impacts of climate change in the second half of the 21st century.