#042 The Most Powerful Solution to Climate Change

Karen O’Brien on how people, systems & consciousness transform


The first guest we ever had on this podcast, the former Wall St executive John Fullerton, made reference again this week to “John Elkington's product recall“ on a term he coined 25 years ago – ‘triple bottom line’. It reflects, he said, “the growing consensus that sustainability in business is not working. Instead, the chorus for systemic transformation is growing.” Our guest this week is Professor Karen O’Brien, and she has spent decades exploring and assisting people in just this. 

Karen O'Brien - Uni of Oslo.jpg
Given the rate, magnitude and speed of the changes we need, let’s go to the highest leverage point. What would that involve to actually loosen the constraints of a paradigm that is, in my view, killing us?
— Professor Karen O'Brien

Karen is an internationally recognised thought leader on climate change impacts and social transformation. She has been heavily involved in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC), and shared in its 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. She’s also on the scientific advisory board for Project Drawdown, and is the co-founder and partner in cCHANGE, an Oslo-based company that has become a beacon in the space of social transformation.

Karen’s work focuses on the relationships between personal, cultural, and systems transformations. She calls it exploring the most powerful solution to climate change – people! And she’s decidedly positive about it, pointing out that projections of the future too often exclude the understanding that people constitute the systems and stories we live by. We are the systems. And we have the ability to transform ourselves (read, not others) – deliberately, consciously, deeply. And in everyday life, wherever we are.  

Karen wrote an article a few years ago titled ‘Is it time for a quantum leap?’, on the emerging field of quantum social theory. And she sees her work on the ground with cCHANGE and cCHALLENGE bearing out the potential for just that. So how does conscious social transformation happen? How do we engage the highest leverage points? How do we take care of each other in the process? And can this really enable us to achieve the 1.5 degree Paris Agreement target?

Get more:

On Karen.


Her new book, Climate & Society: Transforming the Future, with Robin Leichenko.

And her upcoming webinar on 8 August 2019.



Who’ll Stop The Rain, by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The System, by the Public Opinion Afro Orchestra.

Thanks to all our supporters & partners for making this podcast possible!