The model we presented in Special Article #4, Global Risk Factors and Music in Australia, was developed independently of other scenarios. That process gave us better insights into the likely scope of the music scenarios, through intensive analysis and some intuition. Since published arts sector-related scenario models are as scarce as hens’ teeth and it was important to keep an open mind while developing one, this seemed sensible, and in retrospect I am glad I followed that approach. Of course the formal scenario literature provided substantial help, including the recognition that the initial identification of the multiple factors that could have impact on the music sector could be merged into what scenario planners call critical uncertainties.
One important result of the independent work was to define the Australian music sector as globally associated. The model flowchart to the right shows this, and places the critical uncertainties in a central position in the process of developing alternative futures.
Now the model is developed, and put it into a philosophical context in Scenarios, Virtual History, and Chaos, the time has come to check other scenario projects for independent intellectual support of the approach. Having identified the context of the Australian music sector as global, the search was for other global perspectives. In fact, not a lot of scenarios have global parameters because they are basically confined within national boundaries. But we found three, of which two were specific about critical uncertainties, and another used a short list of major variables which could be compared with the music sector research.
The first is the classic atmospheric emissions scenarios report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2000, familiar from previous work. The second study was undertaken by the World Economic Forum to analyse the alternative futures of financial institutions following the Global Financial Crisis. It was published in 2010. Thirdly, the European Commission published Global Europe 2050 in 2011 to study the future of the European Union. Each is discussed in turn, and related to the scenario model for the Australian music sector.
As noted above, two of the three scenario studies both identified two largely unrelated sets of critical uncertainties that positioned against each other yield four different scenarios. For example, if one of these uncertainties can be either “fast” or “slow”, and the other “wet” or “dry”, the four scenarios become “fast/wet”, “fast/dry”, “slow/wet” and “slow/dry” – combinations that are capable of producing very different futures, especially if either "fast" or "slow" , and either "wet" or "dry", is superior according to the scenario model. This example is of course merely indicative of the descriptions below. The point is that the four-scenario matrix works well in an actual inquiry, and will be adopted for the music sector scenarios.
The next step, in fact, is to identify two sets of critical uncertainties for the music sector to form the basis for telling the scenario stories for each matrix quadrant.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began developing these scenarios in 1996, and the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) was finally approved in 2000. This caused the replacement of previous scenarios developed for the IPCC's Second Assessment Report in 1992 which had themselves replaced the original scenarios for the First Assessment Report in 1990 – the IPCC was committed to scenario building virtually from the time it was founded in 1988.
The SRES went through the IPCC approval process too late for complete incorporation of its findings into the Third Assessment Report (2001), but draft scenarios were circulated to climate modellers to facilitate their input into that report. The scenarios played their greatest role in the Fourth Assessment Report in 2007. The formal scenario approach was abandoned in the Fifth Assessment Report (2014) in favour of alternative “representative concentration pathways” (RCPs), which limit atmospheric greenhouse gases to predetermined levels by 2100. Consequently, the role of scenarios has changed from estimating the future level of greenhouse gases resulting from different economic and environmental regimes. The new policy model implies the use of scenarios that are designed to achieve a target level of atmospheric greenhouse gases in 2100.
In the previous IPCC reports, mitigation to limit atmospheric greenhouse gas pollution was a subsequent step to reduce the economic growth rate to a sustainable level. In the new model, mitigation is built into the process to achieve the target greenhouse gas level. The introduction of RCPs is not incompatible with scenarios because there are alternative ways to achieve a target. Moreover, the IPCC reports go to great lengths to measure the intrinsic uncertainty of targeting future greenhouse gas levels. The left-hand box shows the range of emissions caused by fossil fuels in 2100. Gigatons carbon is one of the main indicators; more are discussed in the next section which compares the SRES scenarios for 2100.
The introduction of RCPs, therefore, has not replaced the need for scenarios because they are just as required as before to guide policies aimed at a particular emissions target. Of course, the stories themselves might have needed updating because they were written almost 20 years ago, but our concern here is the validity of the global scenario approach rather than the story details.
The two dimensions of the scenarios – the critical uncertainties – are illustrated by the well-known SRES tree diagram, shown in its original form above. The uncertainties expressed vertically are the contrast between growth-driven and environmentally sensitive policies, while the horizontal axis ranges from a global to a regional focus. As usual in scenario analysis, all scenarios were plausible, and all were equally likely.
The SRES, in summary, uses a classic scenario approach whose basic elements could be graphed in a flowchart resembling the music sector model.
The SRES report notes: “By 2100 the world will have changed in ways that are hard to imagine – as hard as it would have been at the end of the 19th century to imagine the changes of the 100 years since. Each storyline assumes a distinctly different direction for future developments, such that the four storylines differ in increasingly irreversible ways. Together they describe divergent futures that encompass a significant portion of the underlying uncertainties in the main driving forces. They cover a wide range of key "future" characteristics such as population growth, economic development, and technological change. For this reason, their plausibility or feasibility should not be considered solely on the basis of an extrapolation of current economic, technological, and social trends.”
We are reminded by this of the basic rule that scenarios are not forecasts, but describe a range of different possible futures designed to assist long-term strategic planning.
Economic growth versus sustainability: Unless the fossil-intensive variant of A1 (A1FI) can be replaced by renewable energy (A1T), the level of atmospheric greenhouse gases will increase rapidly. In 1990, the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel amounted to 6.0 gigatons of carbon (6.0 GtC). Emissions in 2100 in the fossil-intensive scenario (A1FI) are estimated to reach 30.3 GtC, compared with 13.1 GtC in the intermediate balanced-energy version and 4.3 GtC if fossil fuels are replaced by renewables. The environmentally oriented global scenario, B1, would cause emissions of 5.2 GtC in 2100.
The global population in all three A1 scenarios, and the “green” B1 scenario, would be 7 billion in 2100 according to the detailed projections in the SRES report. The global GDP projection for 2100 in the three A1 scenarios is between $525 and $550 trillion at 1990 prices, compared with $328 trillion for B1. The per capita income ratio between developed countries and (then) emerging economics was 16.1 in 1990 – indicating a high degree of inequality (China was at an early stage of its economic revolution, and the BRIC acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China, countries considered to be at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development, was coined as late as 2001). The projections for the A1 scenarios were 1.5 or 1.6 for the end of the 21st century, and 1.8 for B1 – suggesting that most countries will reach developed status during what is currently named the Asian century but includes Latin America and many countries in Africa and other regions.
Global versus regional: The above projections contrast starkly with the regionalised A2 scenario, and to a lesser extent with B2 despite its relative sensitivity to the environment. Estimated CO2 emissions for A2 for 2100 were 28.9 GtC, not much below A1FI, and 13.8 GtC for B2. Population was projected to reach an unsustainable 15.1 billion in B1 and 10.4 billion in B2 by 2100. World GDP in that year would be $243 trillion in B1 (to share among 15.1 billion people) and $235 trillion in B2. The per capita income ratio between developed and emerging economies would be reduced much less than for the globally oriented scenarios: to 4.2 for A2 and 3.0 for B2.
Therefore, based on sets of complex assumptions making up the critical uncertainties on whether the world puts its main policy priorities on growth or the environment, a global orientation is distinctly preferable to regionalism. The heterogeneous environmentally insensitive A2 scenario looks an even worse case than the global fossil-fuel dominated growth scenario, but both are unsustainable in the long term given the realism of the climate assumptions.
The most important finding apart from the environmental damage caused by greenhouse gases is that a world weaned off fossil fuels will secure similar economic growth to the other A1 variants – sustainable growth. It would become the new green solution. This ought to ring some very loud bells in the second decade of the 21st century – the message that fossil fuels must be phased out should be prominent in any current effort to interpret and plan for the future. In a highly interconnected world, this includes the music sector scenario project.
Following hot upon the heels of the Global Financial Crisis, the World Economic Forum (WEF) initiated a scenario-planning study to help define the future of the banking system and other financial institutions which had literally triggered the crisis in 2007. It included near term prospects to 2012 and scenarios to 2020, and was published in 2010. A companion volume presented the actual scenarios. This project has already benefited from the WEF’s annual identification of global risk factors (Global Risk Factors and Music in Australia devotes a substantial section to the subject).
The purpose of this paper is to add to our ideas for developing the music sector scenarios, not to lament the past. Many have strong opinions about the continuing economic sluggishness that remain a concern in late 2014, fully seven years after the Global Financial Crisis struck. Some may wish to reflect on the scenario builders’ summary that follows, but it shouldn’t be allowed to affect the real purpose of this exercise. The following excerpts are from the beginning of the executive summary of the project. There is more detail there.
Along the way to identifying the critical uncertainties, the WEF identified a set of key driving forces as they existed when the GFC hit. Population growth and structure were considered significant but fairly predictable and hard to influence. Economic forces were obviously of major importance, and political drivers become crucial in times of crises. Energy-related influences relate to the wealth distribution of fossil fuel exporters and the response to the threat of climate change, including the pricing of carbon emissions and policies on renewables.
The WEF authors proceeded to explain the situation that led to the Global Financial Crisis. The initial part of their summary is reproduced below. It is important not only as a background to these particular scenarios but because it describes how the most serious recession since the 1930s was generated. Given that this has medium- to long-term consequences way beyond the financial sector, it is directly relevant to other globally based scenarios including the music project.
During the 20 years leading to the financial crisis in 2007, the global economy entered a period of remarkable macroeconomic stability. The principal strategies of the global banks were supported by a resurgent belief in free markets, small government and self-regulation. At the same time, the globalisation of financial markets and the growth of the emerging-market economies subtly shifted the prevailing macroeconomic order, precipitating a major restructuring of the global institutional investment landscape.
Within this environment, the wholesale financial system – in which we include corporate and institutional banks, traditional and alternative asset managers, sovereign and institutional investors, insurance providers and financial exchanges – enjoyed unprecedented earnings growth, particularly throughout the most recent credit cycle, thanks to expansionary monetary policies, financial globalization and sustained economic expansion.
The principal strategies of the global banks were supported by a resurgent belief in free markets, small government and self-regulation, supported by relaxations such as the 2004 amendment of the net capital rule for investment banks with assets over US$ 5 billion, which effectively shifted certain oversight responsibilities from the Securities and Exchange Commission and European Union regulators directly onto the banks themselves.
At the same time, the globalization of financial markets and the growth in emerging market economies subtly shifted the prevailing macroeconomic order, precipitating a major restructuring of the global institutional investment landscape. Globally, foreign ownership of financial assets reached US$ 67 trillion at the beginning of 2008, roughly one-third of total global financial assets, up from just US$ 17 trillion, or one-fifth of global financial assets, a decade earlier. By 2008, the central banks and sovereign funds of Asian and Middle Eastern countries were estimated to have amassed some US$ 7 trillion in combined assets.
Much of this purchasing activity was fuelled by countries with expansionary monetary policies that required them to accumulate sizable US dollar fixed income assets to limit currency fluctuations. This was particularly true for countries with trade surpluses in Asia and energy exporters in the Middle East. By adding significantly to demand for dollar assets, these policies flooded the market with liquidity, helping to generate significant upward pressure on dollar-denominated assets, and keeping interest rates on dollar-denominated debt low. This surfeit of liquidity contributed to significant behavioural and market distortions. Consumer and investor euphoria pushed down savings ratios in the OECD countries, despite rising disposable incomes.
In summary, by the beginning of 2007, the financial services landscape had changed dramatically from its condition in 1984. After nearly two decades of healthy growth, the industry as a whole had shifted towards larger levels of leveraged position-taking, aided by flush liquidity conditions and a permissive regulatory environment. The landscape as a whole had become much more tightly interlinked following the erosion of boundaries between financial business models. National boundaries also became significantly less important, resulting in increased correlation between global asset returns.
First and foremost, the WEF scenarios are based on two sets of critical uncertainties, as shown in the right-hand graph. The WEF scenario report (p 9) explains the model and sets the stage in what is a classical scenario-planning approach (italics added):
“In answering the project’s central question, the scenarios vary along two critical uncertainties: the pace of the ongoing geo-economic power shift from today’s advanced economies to the emerging world and the degree of international coordination on financial policy. These critical uncertainties have been defined based on a survey of the World Economic Forum’s industry partners, interviews with leaders in the field, and extensive research. Based on this analysis, four plausible and compelling views emerge about how the global financial system might evolve between now and the year 2020. Each of these scenarios take a myriad of underlying driving forces into account – such as the evolution of energy and commodity prices, global economic growth, fiscal policies, trade regimes, climate change, exchange rate policies, extremism, demographics and global wealth distribution.”
The scenario stories themselves are quite elaborate, designed to attract and engage the reader. They use the device of a fictive future commentator comparing the “current” state of affairs in 2020 with the situation back in 2008. There are also interviews with executives on what it is like working in 2020 in the world of a particular scenario. Such devices are sometimes used in scenario presentations to attract readers.
The brief summaries in the above matrix were derived from a table in each scenario showing “at a glance” how the financial regulations changed from 2008 to 2020 – “who leads?”, “what is regulated?”, “what cooperation exists?” and “what bodies dominate?”. Of course, 80 words can give only a crude impression of the scenario details.
The final important lesson from the WEF scenario work is its view on how scenarios develop and proceed. Reassuringly, the descriptions support our own independently developed flowchart for the music sector (shown in the beginning of this paper). It also illustrates the urgency to take the two last steps without which scenarios cannot be properly structured – formulating the central question (step 1) and the critical uncertainties (step 3).
Step 1: The central question in the WEF scenarios was: How might the governance and structure of the global financial system evolve over both the near-term and the long-term? The scenario horizon was 2020, 12 years after the GFC.
The central question for the music sector, with a 20-year horizon to 2035, has yet to be formulated.
Step 2: The driving forces were basically derived from WEF’s annual global risk survey for 2008, which identified 34 global risk factors which the scenario team ranked according to their degree of importance for the development of financial markets and the degree of uncertainty about their future development.
Our published flowchart at the beginning of the paper identifies 11 driving forces – seven globally based and four that have more of an Australian orientation but with strong influences from abroad.
Step 3 (quoted in full): “Critical uncertainties are those driving forces that are both highly important and highly uncertain. Numerous critical uncertainties surround the future development of the global financial system, including changes in energy prices and the speed of global growth. The deductive approach to scenario development used for this project requires a focus on two important and largely independent critical uncertainties. Workshop participants identified the “degree of international coordination on financial policy” and the “pace of geo-economic power shifts” as the two most important critical uncertainties facing the global financial system. The two “macro” critical uncertainties have thus been defined based on a myriad of underlying driving forces, e.g. the evolution of energy and commodity prices, global economic growth, fiscal policies, trade regimes and exchange rate policies.”
Identifying the critical uncertainties is a crucial next step in the scenario-building process for the music sector. Other inputs from the music sector scenarios come from the Music Trust including the Knowledge Base itself, and from the responses to the survey we conducted with music sector representatives around the middle of 2014.
Step 4: Constructing scenario frameworks. To develop four significantly different scenario stories, the two most important critical uncertainties are charted on two axes – the matrix illustration at the beginning of the section on scenario structure.
The music sector project will proceed in similar fashion.
Step 5: Developing scenario stories/reading the scenarios. Each quadrant of the framework represents a different possible future world, summarised in the graphics above. Of course, the WEF stories were not confined to a graph; neither will it be in the music sector study but matrix graphs will be used to convey key messages and findings.
The music sector graph includes an important process. Scenario planning is, as has often been said, the “art of strategic conversation”.<Kees van der Heijden, Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation. John Wiley & Sons, 1996.</ref> Scenarios cannot just be dumped on someone’s desk expecting action. The scenario-planning efforts reported in this paper were all large-scale, involving extensive communication in general. The Music Trust benefits from its long association across the music sector but is constrained, like other arts organisations, by limited personnel and funds. The request for feedback is important for the development of acceptable scenarios that members across the music sector can accept and act upon.
The eight-step graphic shows that the process doesn’t end here, though the WEF notes the subsequent steps without comment. The compilation of acceptable scenario stories is obviously only a means to an end and the final descriptions relate to the music sector.
Step 6: Stakeholder implications. The stakeholders are primarily the participants of the music sector itself, but it is so diverse that the scenarios, even after being approved in the feedback process, may need further detail to be useful to all concerned. Given that the total scenarios would be needed as a framework for "all things music", supplementary scenarios derived from the main set would be the natural extension. It would seem inadvisable to start all afresh on part of the music sector.
Step 7: Strategic options. Long-range planning is strategic by definition, whether developed by industry interests, educationalists, or in communication with government. Similar considerations apply when considering step 7 as when considering step 6. An overall music sector strategy should be part of the main scenarios, and supplemented as required for specific parts of the sector.
Step 8: Indicators and signposts. Situations change, and the landscapes defined by future scenarios are likely to change in many ways over five years, or less. The most important feature of step 8 is that it dovetails back to step 1, which concerns the formulation of the central question. Scenario planning should be seen as a continuing process and the central question based on current perceptions may not be the central question in five years' time if the indicators and signposts for the sector change. As is almost certain to happen.
These scenarios were commissioned by the European Commission to help assess the long-term future of the European Union (EU). The description is based on the executive summary which is available. It was published in October 2011.
It identified six relevant dimensions of the future:
It didn’t develop this list, or the more detailed analysis reported below, into formal critical uncertainties. Despite this, the detailed approach to the identification of factors and how they affected the three EU scenarios has been most helpful, as shown below.
The scenarios were shaped with a view to combine the global perspectives (including future dynamics and trends that are mainly out of reach of EU policies), focusing on EU integration. The scenarios are deliberately Euro (EU)-centric. The focus is on three different EU trajectories, with the rest of the world as backdrop. The rest of the world may follow different trajectories depending on whether it does better, worse or similar to the EU. Reading the summary EU scenarios suggests that not all the nine global scenarios that are theoretically possible from a combination of global and EU variants are realistic (Table 1). The rest of the world wins out in the most pessimistic EU scenarios, and EU wins or retains share in the “EU renaissance” scenario. This is readily accommodated in the three EU scenarios.
The three EU scenarios were:
Table 2 summarises the three scenarios in terms of each of the six dimensions.
The music sector model was developed independently of the Global Europe 2050 scenarios but the similarities are significant despite the different purposes leading to the development of the models, including the fact that Global Europe 2050 deals with the future of the entire European Union and our model with a small but important component of Australian social, cultural and economic life. Table 3 compares the basic global scenario components or dimensions (six in the European model and seven global components for music, plus four added when specifically addressing Australia).
At this level, both models are specific in addressing energy and the environment, the economy, global governance (which seems to have gained importance as a scenario factor in recent years), and innovation and related issues. The music sector model doesn’t have a specific slot for what Global Europe 2050 calls “territorial and mobility dynamics” – but this largely concerns the positive and negative aspects of global urbanisation which is bound to be an increasingly serious factor as the world population keeps growing. Apart from the reminder that the Global Europe 2050 model provides, urbanisation is for better or worse part and parcel of global growth and distribution, and also of global governance which we have independently identified in the music sector model.
Global Europe 2050, on the other hand, does not specify cultural policy among the main dimensions, which is unsurprising as we are dealing with the basic building blocks for the entire EU scenarios. If we go into more detail by looking at each of the three scenario stories, however, the best case “EU renaissance” is quite specific in its identification of cultural policy as a positive factor, whereas the “business as usual muddling through” scenario (“nobody cares”) and the worst-case “threats” scenario contain no mention of cultural policy. “Nobody cares” concentrates on the economy and welcomes cheap migrant workers. It appears from the scenario stories to be unconcerned with climate change, global governance, inequality, and even science and technology (at least these factors are not made explicit). The worst case scenario seems to be mildly concerned with foreign trade and investment and global governance but we can’t be sure that the summary we read covers the full detail. Table 4 gives a general impression based on what we picked up from the scenario stories. It would need further research to confirm that this is exactly what the scenario builders intended, but it is close enough for our purposes.
The renaissance model, importantly, treats all 11 dimensions shown in Table 4 as positive inputs into what would also be a best case for the Australian music sector, if it was based on a similar model. Migration (into the EU) seems to be the one partial exception, possibly associated with the publicly perceived threat that may even have penetrated into the scenario planners’ realm in view of the substantial net migration into Europe largely from the Middle East which started about 40 years ago. Australia is mainly a country of people who arrived since the late 18th century, and racial prejudice is not expected to enter our analysis.
How bad should the worst case be? The general opinion, which we share, is that scenarios that include, say, events like global wars or world-shattering natural disasters would change the whole context so much that proper analysis and planning becomes impossible. Rather, worst cases should describe an unfavourable future which remains potentially capable of remedy through mitigating policies.
Similar considerations apply to a “best case” scenario – it wouldn’t be credible if it followed the teaching of Professor Pangloss in Voltaire’s 1759 satirical novella Candide that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” – a world that would continue to be best no matter what.  To be credible, any positive scenario needs to be nurtured and protected – the Pangloss view was ridiculed 250 years ago and remains naïve at best. The best case should be more like the EU “renaissance” scenario (or a scenario to replace fossil fuels) which is potentially achievable through realistic policies to counteract threats and develop opportunities.
Formulating the central question is the essential first step in the scenario-planning process. It needs to happen for the work to proceed. Secondly two sets of critical uncertainties need to be nominated. They need to be as independently of each other (uncorrelated) as possible. The project cannot develop until these two steps have been taken.
Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Entered on Knowledge Base 8 December 2014.