World Climate: A Computer-Simulation-Based Role-Playing Exercise
"Just wanted to send a heartfelt thanks to all of you after running World Climate this week...It was fun once again to watch my students 'get it' in a whole new way, even after they had had most of a semester on climate change science and policy."
World Climate is a role-playing climate simulation designed by MIT and Climate Interactive that gives groups from 6-80 a chance to experience how to negotiate a global agreement to mitigate climate change.
All the materials for World Climate are shared freely for you to lead the exercise with your own groups.
- Facilitator guide and materials (some materials available in French, German, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish)
- Blog entries
- Journal article on World Climate that is under peer review
The game is set up as a highly simplified international climate change negotiating meeting where participants play the role of delegates from different regions of the world and work together to reach a global accord that meets the group's goal for CO2 levels. A "UN Secretary General" receives pledges from three different "blocs", asks her or his technical staff to simulate them in the C-ROADS climate simulation (or its simpler version, C-Learn), and informs delegates of results, often sending them back for another round of debate, strategizing, and collaboration.
Exercises run from 1.5-3 hours.
The simulation was first known as the Copenhagen Climate Exercise. Over the past years, Drew Jones, John Sterman of MIT, and many others have run the policy exercise for European business leaders in Greenland, European Union government policymakers, oil executives, the US Forest Service, members of The Climate Group, and in countless classrooms from MIT to Asheville High School.
The simulation debrief tends to cover multiple areas: international geo-political dynamics, the biogeochemistry of climate (oceans, plants, the carbon cycle, tipping points), cultural barriers to global agreements, managing hope and fear amidst an uncertain future, a "systems" perspective on complex issues, and the technological, legal, and behavioral changes that will help stabilize the climate.
Overall, we've seen World Climate help people quickly learn the policy-relevant science of climate change, viscerally experience the international dynamics, and succeed at crafting a solution to the challenges, while taking a realistic look at the scale of changes ahead as we shift to a low-carbon global economy.
Current or potential leaders of the policy exercise can explore our extensive facilitator resources -- we share our slide decks, a facilitator manual, handout sheets, videos of an actual event etc. Note -- effective delivery requires apprenticeship and practice.
For more information on the policy exercise, see the article on World Climate in MIT's Technology Review. Read our blog entry on the exercise and its latest appearances. Read the academic paper (29.3mb pdf) with lead author Dr. John Sterman. And watch the video of Dr. John Sterman and Kris Wile leading it.
Building on the example of the 1994 simulation-based, two party negotiation game Susclime, by Bert de Vries and Tom Fiddaman, this exercise emerged from the classrooms of Andrew Jones at UNC's Kenan Flagler Business School and John Sterman at the MIT Sloan School of Management in 2006. Its approach was then influenced by the Center for a New American Security's 2.5 day "Clout and Climate Change" War Game, by another negotiation exercise -- Climate Diplomat, by Craig Hart (whose materials are often used with World Climate), Buckminster Fuller's World Game, and Dana Meadows' column, If the world were a village of 1000 people. The policy exercise has been adapted to meet different purposes and groups by Beth Sawin, Phil Rice, Peter Senge, Sherry Immediato, Chris Soderquist, Michael Goodman, Kim Warren, Kris Wile, and others.
If you have used the World Climate Exercise or if you have developed any additional materials or variations on the game we would be happy to hear about it and share any materials with the community. Please email us.