World Climate Simulation

A climate change role-playing game was hosted by SPL and facilitated by Climate Interactive on June 9th. Participants directly experienced the challenges involved in negotiating equitable and realistic targets for carbon emission reductions needed for climate change mitigation. The process was supported by a system dynamics modelling tool, which showed everyone the results of their actions for each round of the game.

Our facilitators: Ellie (top) and Grace (bottom)

With a goal to ensure that global temperatures would not rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, participants were split into five groups of nations (USA, European Union, Other Developed Countries, China, India, and Other Developing Nations) as well as two advocacy groups (Civil Society and the Oil Lobby).

For three rounds, each nation-group would present their policy commitments.

These included:
  • the year at which nations would stop increasing carbon emissions
  • the year at which they would begin reducing carbon emissions
  • the rate at which they would reduce their emissions
  • adopting policies to halt deforestation
  • adopting policies to increase afforestation efforts
These five pledges for each nation-group were entered into the model and the resulting reduction in temperature was shown.

Between each round of committments, the facilitators would show some results of this temperature rise - in a light-hearted, but serious manner. (Europe under water)

Nation-groups would then negotiate their next commitments, which allowed participants to explore their perceptions of each nation-group, how they contribute to climate change, and the perceived power differences between groups.

The event required no modelling or technical knowledge from participants, yet the model offered very intuitive, if unexpected results. The whole process also required participants to engage in systems thinking.
Participants voiced a few key lessons:
  • a large amount of work is required to reduce carbon emissions to an adequate level
  • those which may offer the largest mitigation impact mitigation may have the least political power
  • the realities of climate change are often not apparent to those engaged in negotiations
  • civil society would need to make use of strategic interventions to have their message heard