The 'law of requisite variety' may assist climate change negotiations:a review of the Kyoto and Durban meetings


Ashby wrote about cybernetics, during which discourse he described a Law that attempts to resolve difficulties arising in complex situations – he suggested using variety to combat complexity. In this paper, we note that the delegates to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Kyoto, 1997, were offered a ‘simplifying solution’ to cope with the complexity of discussing multiple pollutants allegedly contributing to ‘climate change’. We assert that the adoption of CO2eq has resulted in imprecise thinking regarding the ‘carbon footprint’ – that is, ‘CO2’ – to the exclusion of other pollutants. We propose, as Ashby might have done, that the CO2eq and other factors within the ‘climate change’ negotiations be disaggregated to allow careful and specific individual solutions to be agreed on each factor. We propose a new permanent and transparent ‘action group’ be in charge of agenda setting and to manage the messy annual meetings. This body would be responsible for achieving accords at these annual meetings, rather than forcing this task on national hosts. We acknowledge the task is daunting and we recommend moving on from Ashby's Law to Beer's Viable Systems approach.

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Divisions: Aston Business School
Aston Business School > Operations & Information Management
Additional Information: This is a pre-print of an article published in Knowledge Management Research & Practice. The definitive publisher-authenticated versionKidd, J. (2014). The 'law of requisite variety' may assist climate change negotiations: a review of the Kyoto and Durban meetings. Knowledge management research and practice, 12(1), 62-73. is available online at:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ashby's Law,beer,climate change,requisite variety,Viable Systems Model,VSM,Business and International Management,Management Information Systems,Management of Technology and Innovation,Library and Information Sciences
Full Text Link: http://www.palg ... mrp201256a.html
Related URLs: http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2014-02
Published Online Date: 2013-01-14
Authors: Kidd, John



Version: Accepted Version

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