Can You Solve Climate Change Better Than World Leaders?

En-ROADS is fun (and depressing) to explore. Spoiler alert: The massive scale of combined actions needed to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius quickly becomes obvious. There is no single solution. Users can input any combination of scenarios, from carbon pricing to reducing deforestation to electric vehicles to ending fossil fuel subsidies, and instantly visualize how those solutions impact outcomes like future warming and sea-level rise.

Didn’t quite keep temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius, or even 2 degrees Celsius? Try again, except swap out EVs for highly subsidized renewable energy, or reduce economic or population growth. En-ROADS exposes which policies and strategies are likely to have the biggest impact. Run the simulation on your own, tweaking climate strategies, or have a party and invite your friends over to debate which strategies global leaders should prioritize while you yell at the real-world negotiations on the news broadcasts.

With En-ROADS, you can visualize land area lost to sea-level rise and explore global flood risk maps. You can identify which species are losing range due to climate change, and where. You can calculate estimated decreases in crop yield or increased deaths resulting from higher temperatures. This is significant in areas that historically never needed air conditioning and are seeing record heat-related deaths, like the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.

Role-Play Your Own UN Climate Summit

If you’re more interested in the nuances of high-stakes negotiations and climate justice, check out C-ROADS. Individuals can run the simulation online, but it’s more fun to role-play a simulated United Nations climate summit. Climate Interactive provides facilitator resources and materials for hosting. Groups can represent developed and developing countries in broad categories, or if you have more players, you can play a six-region game and represent the United States, the European Union, China, India, other developed nations, and other developing nations. You can also add representation for climate activists, fossil fuel lobbyists, the press corps, and the United States Climate Alliance.

My college-level students participate in mock-UN climate negotiations to help them understand the complexities of real-world negotiations and gain a more tangible understanding of the impacts of possible climate actions. Student groups are provided with guidelines of actual climate or financial impacts their represented country or stakeholder group is facing and what they need out of the negotiations, and tasked with proposing climate solutions their group is willing to take. 

To make the role-play more realistic, students who represent low-lying island nations are required to sit on the floor at the back of the room while students representing wealthy business groups or developed countries are given superior placement with fancy chairs, snacks, and special treatment at the front of the class.

It’s inspiring to see my students embrace their assigned country or stakeholder group. They would have secret conversations in the hallways, bribe other groups, passionately plead their case to the entire class, do whatever they could to defend their proposals or the urgency of their situation. Some chose to walk out of negotiations. I entered their proposals into the C-ROADS climate simulator, and the tool immediately calculated whether the proposals were sufficient to keep warming below 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees Celsius. When cumulative commitments failed to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (which they always did), students representing the island nations were covered with a tarp to represent their islands no longer being habitable due to sea-level rise.