• Offered by Environmental Management & Development Program
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Environmental Management & Development
  • Areas of interest Environmental Studies
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Robert Costanza
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2014
    Second Semester 2014
    See Future Offerings
Special Topics in Environmental Management and Development (EMDV8041)

This course consists of directed readings and studies on a particular topic of special interest to the student and the member of staff who agrees to direct and supervise it. It is designed principally for students with a strong interest in and aptitude for individual research. It may focus on a topic that complements that chosen for the research project and should lead to a written report of the length and quality of a publishable literature review or article.


In Semester Two, 2013 the topic will be


Scenario Planning and Analysis for Australia


Robert Costanza, Ida Kubiszewski, Steve Cork, Geoff Gorrie



To deal with the future we have to deal with possibilities. Analysis will only tell us ‘What is’.

Edward de Bono, Parallel Thinking


Predicting the future is impossible.  But what we can do is lay out a series of plausible scenarios, which help to better understand future possibilities and the uncertainties surrounding them. As Nicholls et al. (2011) put it:  “Scenarios enable decision makers to consider a variety of plausible storylines of how the future might unfold and are exploratory tools where factors shaping the future are especially uncertain or the complex nature of systems makes them unpredictable.”  They have become an important way to inform decision-making under uncertainty.


‘Scenario’ is a term with multiple meanings. Scenario exercises vary in their objectives and hence their characteristics (Biggs et al., 2007, Nicholls et al. 2011). We define scenario analysis or scenario planning as a structured process of exploring and evaluating the future. Scenarios are essentially stories that consider how alternative futures, typically related to a particular focal issue (O’Brien, 2000), may unfold from combinations of highly influential and uncertain drivers, and their interactions with more certain driving forces. 


Scenario planning differs from forecasting, projections, and predictions, in that it explores plausible rather than probable futures (Peterson et al., 2003). Although aspects of the future worlds depicted by scenarios may come to eventuate, these worlds are often best viewed as caricatures of reality from which we can learn.

Scenario planning is based on four assumptions (DTI 2003):

  1. The future is unlike the past, and is significantly shaped by human choice and action.
  2. The future cannot be foreseen, but exploring possible futures can inform present decisions.
  3. There are many possible futures; scenarios therefore map within a ‘possibility space’.
  4. Scenario development involves both rational analysis and creative thinking.


Scenarios are best suited to exploring situations of high uncertainty and low controllability (Peterson et al., 2003); for example, climate change and global governance are largely beyond the control of a particular region. In these situations, scenarios can help to illuminate the consequences of these uncontrollable forces and to formulate robust responses locally. Importantly, scenarios can help to reveal policy and value changes that may be required, and key branching points at which such changes can most affect outcomes (Gallopín, 2002).


Several scenario-planning exercises have been conducted in recent years at a range of spatial scales and for a range of purposes, including: global futures (Gallopin et al. 1997, Nakicenovic and Swart, 2000, Raskin et al. 2002, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005), regional futures (European Environmental Agency 2009, Bohensky et al. 2011), corporate strategy (Wack, 1985, Shell International 2003), political transition (Kahane, 1992, 2004) and community-based natural resource management (Wollenberg et al., 2000; Evans et al., 2006).  For example, the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) (Nakicenovic and Swart, 2000) scenarios have been widely used to study the potential impacts of future climates, especially within the IPCC process. The SRES scenarios are based on four global “storylines” (termed the A1, A2, B1, and B2 worlds, respectively) which represent different world futures based on two distinct axes or dimensions: (1) economic versus environmental concerns, and (2) globalised versus regional/national-based development patterns.  These two axes define four distinct quadrants for future development.

An interesting feature of many of these exercises is that their scenarios are all fairly consistent and fall along a spectrum of “quality of life” or human well-being (Table 1).

Scenario Planning for Australia

This course will consist of three general steps:

1. Background Reading and Synthesis of Scenarios

The major focus of the course will be a comprehensive literature review and synthesis of existing scenarios that have been developed for Australia and the World. Students and course faculty will work together to identify, review, summarize and synthesize these scenarios.  The goal is to identify common threads and attempt to create a set of scenarios that embody the range and depth of existing scenarios.  The hypothesis is that we will find a high degree of convergence around a set of themes (Hunt et al 2012).  For example, Table 1 represents one way of characterizing scenarios from a range of sources.  There are also several different approaches to generating scenarios and we will search for ways to characterize and synthesize these approaches (Curry and Schultz 2009).  Most descriptions of plausible futures include the relevant elements of the system, driving forces that will define the future, and the early indicators for the unfolding (realisation) of each scenario. For example, a scenario of “business as usual” describes what the continuation of current trends will look like into the future (education and social services conditions, ecosystem health and services, transportation and energy infrastructure, etc.), the economic and political forces that will drive that future, and what the indicators will be over time that signal the path to that future. 


For Australia, major elements of future scenarios include:

  • Population dynamics, demographic shifts and in-migration levels
  • Ecosystem health and ecosystem services.
  • Overall quality of life
  • Future conditions of transportation and electrical infrastructures based on different scenarios of  systems maintenance and investment
  • Education and health care changes resulting in public/private funding changes, public policy shifts, etc
  • Water supply changes around the country affecting agriculture, forestry, fisheries, industry and municipal water systems
  • Australia’s economy, especially relative to Asia and the world
  • Trends in early childhood development, K-12 and higher education that indicate future scenarios for labor force, social equality, health and welfare burdens
2. Describe and Evaluate Scenarios

The synthesis exercise will result in a small number of scenarios with common characteristics derived from the large number of sources that we identify and characterize in step one.  For each of these scenarios, an evaluation in some detail of the characteristics of that scenario will be developed.  What does that &ld

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  • Educate students in the theory and practice of scenario planning
  • Develop professional skills by working on a real world problem
  • Foster group work, analysis, synthesis, discussion, communication, and research skills;
  • Learn how to define a problem and determine a strategy for working towards a solution

Indicative Assessment

Student’s contribution to the class will be evaluated roughly 50-50 between: (1) participation in research, readings and (2) discussion and effort on preparing documents for publication. A group report and paper(s) for publication in peer-reviewed journals describing the process and product are planned.

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.

Preliminary Reading

Biggs, R., Raudsepp-Hearne, C., Atkinson-Palombo, C., Bohensky, E., Boyd, E., Cundill, G., Fox, H., Ingram, S., Kok, K., Spehar, S. Tengö, M., Timmer, D., Zurek, M., 2007. Linking futures across scales: a dialog on multiscale scenarios. Ecology and Society 12, 17.

Bohensky, E. L., J. Butler, R. Costanza, I. Bohnet, A. Delisle, K. Fabricius, M. Gooch, I. Kubiszewski, G. Lukacs, P. Pert, E. Wolanski. 2011. Future makers or future takers? A scenario analysis of climate change and the Great Barrier Reef. Global Environmental Change 21: 876-893. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.03.009Costanza, R. 2000. Visions of alternative (unpredictable) futures and their use in policy analysis. Conservation Ecology 4(1):5. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol4/iss1/art5

DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) (2003) Foresight Futures 2020: Revised Scenarios and Guidance, DTI, London, UK, www.foresight.gov.uk

European Environment Agency, 2009. Looking Back on Looking Forward: A Review of Evaluative Scenario Literature. Tech. Report No. 3, 2009, Copenhagen, Denmark, 26pp.

Evans, K., Velarde, S.J., Prieto, R., Rao, S.N., Sertzen, S., Dávila, K., Cronkleton P., de Jong, W. 2006. Field guide to the Future: Four Ways for Communities to Think Ahead. Bennett, E., Zurek, M. (Eds.), Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), ASB, World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi. At: http://www.asb.cgiar.org/ma/scenarios/field-guide.asp.

Gallopín, G., Hammond, A., Raskin, P., Swart, R., 1997. Branch Points: Global Scenarios and Human Choice. PoleStar Series Report No. 7. Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm.

Gallopín, G.C., 2002. Planning for resilience: scenarios, surprises and branch points. In: Gunderson, L., Holling, C.S. (Eds.), Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. Island Press, Washington D.C., pp. 361–392.

Hunt, D. V. L. et al. 2012. Scenario Archetypes: Converging Rather than Diverging Themes. Sustainability 4:740-772. doi:10.3390/su4040740

Kahane, A., 1992. The Mont Fleur scenarios. Deeper News 7.

Kahane, A. 2004. Solving Tough Problems: an open way of talking, listening, and creating new realities.  Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco.

Landcare Research Scenarios Working Group (2007). Four future scenarios for New Zealand: Work in progress. 2nd edition. Manaaki Whenua Press, Lincoln, New Zealand.

MA (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment), 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington, D.C.

Nakicenovic N., Swart, R. Eds., 2000. Emissions scenarios. Special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.   Cambridge University Press, 599 pp. 

Nicholls, R. J. C. D. Woodroffe, V. Burkett, J. Hay, P. P. Wong, and L. Nurse. 2011. Scenarios for Coastal Vulnerability Assessment. Chapter in: Tretise on Estuarine and Coastal Science, E. Wolanski and D. S. McLusky (Eds). Volume 12. Ecological Economics of Estuaries and Coasts, M. van den Belt and R. Costanza (Eds).  Elsevier, Amsterdam. (in press)

O’Brien, P., 2000. Scenario Planning: A Strategic Tool. Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra.

Peterson, G.D., Cumming, G.S., Carpenter, S.R., 2003. Scenario planning: a tool for conservation in an uncertain world. Conservation Biology 17(2), 358–366.

Raskin, P., T. Banuri, G. Gallopin, P. Gutman, A. Hammond, R. Kates, and R. Swart. 2002. Great Transition: the promise and lure of the times ahead.  Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.

Shell International, 2003.  Scenarios:  an Explorer’s Guide.  Global Business Environment. at: www-static.shell.com/static/royal-en/downloads/scenarios_explorersguide.pdf.

Wack, P., 1985. Scenarios: uncharted waters ahead. Harvard Business Review 63, 72–89.

Wollenberg, E., Edmunds, D., Buck, L., 2000. Using scenarios to make decisions about the future: anticipatory learning for the adaptive co-management of community forests. Landscape and Urban Planning 47, 65–77.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Students continuing in their current program of study will have their tuition fees indexed annually from the year in which you commenced your program. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee Description
1994-2003 $1338
2014 $3582
2013 $3582
2012 $3582
2011 $3576
2010 $3570
2009 $3570
2008 $3402
2007 $3132
2006 $2850
2005 $2850
2004 $2160
International fee paying students
Year Fee
1994-2003 $3672
2014 $4146
2013 $4140
2012 $4140
2011 $4134
2010 $4134
2009 $4002
2008 $4002
2007 $3864
2006 $3864
2005 $3864
2004 $3864
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3691 17 Feb 2014 07 Mar 2014 31 Mar 2014 30 May 2014 In Person N/A

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
Scenario Planning and Analysis for Australia
7686 21 Jul 2014 08 Aug 2014 31 Aug 2014 30 Oct 2014 In Person N/A

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions