How we conceptualize climate change: Revealing the force-dynamic structure underlying stock-flow reasoning

  • Kurt Stocker (Author)
    University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Joachim Funke (Author)
    Heidelberg University

Identifiers (Article)


How people understand the fundamental dynamics of stock and flow (SF) is an important basic theoretical question with many practical applications. In this paper, we present a universal frame for understanding stock-flow reasoning in terms of the theory of force dynamics. This deep-level analysis is then applied to two different presentation formats of SF tasks in the context of climate change. We can explain why in a coordinate-graphic presentation misunderstandings occur (“SF failure”), whereas in a verbal presentation a better understanding is found. We end up with recommendations for presentation formats that will help people to better understand SF dynamics. Better public SF understanding might in turn also enhance corresponding public action – such as enhancing pro-environmental actions in relation to climate change.