Sometimes, the sheer weight of the social, economic and environmental “wicked problems” in our world can leave us feeling frozen, unable to take any kind of action. But these are exactly the kinds of problems that researchers everywhere can help with – especially if we use methods that include and draw attention to the communities most affected by them.
First, let’s define our terms: the concept of a wicked problem dates to the 1970s, when two researchers used it to describe problems with no obvious or clear solution. Today, they’re also thought of as problems for which time to find a solution is running out.
A good example of a “wicked problem” is climate change, but there are
numerous others: lack of access to healthcare and clean water, to agricultural
land, sovereignty and self-determination, and the prevalence of poverty and
In the case of climate change, the bulk of evidence supports the findings of the US Climate Science Special Report, which states that it is “extremely likely” that human activities have caused warming since the mid-20th century. The report reviewed thousands of scientific studies from around the world that documented changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; diminishing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; and increasing atmospheric water vapour.