“The workshop enabled participants to visualize how the various approaches and solutions interact and impact climate outcomes. Some of the conclusions challenged received wisdom and intuition.”
- Workshop Participant
In the latest leg of our campaign to build understanding of climate change solutions, Climate Interactive Co-Director Drew Jones traveled to London to engage leaders with our simulations at an event organized by the German Marshall Fund and hosted by the U.K.’s Green Investment Bank.
Grounded optimism shows us that reducing climate risk is “doable.”
In our first exercise with U.K. policymakers, the team of Drew Jones, Miriam Maes and Alissa Burger used our interactive climate and energy models—C-ROADS and En-ROADS—to spread “grounded optimism.” Continue reading
“Look, they only gave us cake crumb, we won’t give anything to the other countries!”
-a student, just before the negotiation starts
Our friend Laurent Richard, a mathematics teacher at the International School of Boston, saw transformative results after running our World Climate Exercise with his students in French. Here’s what he had to say (for the French version, see the bottom of the page):
On January 22nd 2013, upper school teachers from the International School of Boston (ISB) gathered in the hall of the Orthodox church in Arlington, MA, which the school has the benefit of using for its theater lessons and events.
For three hours, with the help of Travis Franck from Climate Interactive, teachers from every discipline experienced for the first time the negotiation role game, World Climate. They considered it a very enlightening simulation that enabled them to get what makes World Climate such a compelling tool for exploring the complexity of the climate change issue. Some of the themes they delved into included: Continue reading
Photo by MIT Sloan Sustainability Management
In the latest entry in the Network for Business Sustainability blog, Climate Interactive Member and MIT Professor John Sterman outlines how we can use systems thinking – the analytical approach that underlies Climate Interactive’s models — to solve some of the world’s most complex problems.
Although his suggestions focus on businesses, these strategies can be used by government organizations, NGOs and individuals as well. Here’s what he had to say:
From climate change and deforestation to collapsing fisheries, species extinction and poisons in our food and water, our society is unsustainable and it is getting worse fast. Many advocate that overcoming these problems requires the development of systems thinking. We’ve long known that we live on a finite “spaceship Earth” in which “there is no away” and “everything is connected to everything else.” The challenge lies in moving from slogans about systems to meaningful methods to understand complexity, facilitate individual and organizational learning, and catalyze the changes we need to create a sustainable society in which all can thrive.
Here, I’ll describe how the world operates as a system — and how businesses can respond effectively to the challenges we face. Continue reading
- At a recent MIT conference, Climate Interactive member Prof. John Sterman provided an inspiring analysis of the relationship between big data, climate models and climate change action.
Climate Interactive team member, Prof. John Sterman
As we see data and models become more advanced and more available, we’re only really reaching the first step toward solving the problem of climate change. The real challenge that we’re facing, Sterman said, is communicating all this information so that it teaches and inspires people to pursue the appropriate solutions.
“The burden is on us,” he said. “People are solving problems—data doesn’t solve problems [and] information doesn’t solve problems.” Continue reading
Creating workable solutions to climate change isn’t easy, but human beings have a history of overcoming obstacles in difficult times (as we’ve said before, ending the slave trade was once similarly thought of as impossible).
In her speech at a teach-in at UMass Lowell, Climate Interactive Co-Director Beth Sawin reminded us that enormous progress on climate change is possible, as long as we’re ready to make some serious changes. For inspiration, she said, she likes to look to her family history.
Here’s an excerpt from her speech:
In 1943 my grandparents built a house. They were barely out of their teens, already married, with two young children. As far as I know, they had never done anything as huge as building a house
But times were hard, money was tight and they kept getting evicted from whatever rundown housing they could find. Continue reading
Travis Franck presents Climate Interactive’s “Climate Pathways” mobile app
As part of its ongoing interview series, the Climate Change Initiative at University of Massachussetts Lowell talked recently with Climate Interactive’s Travis Franck about some of our simulators and the insights they’re providing on climate change.
As Franck explains, Climate Interactive’s emphasis on an analytical approach called systems thinking gives its models a uniquely comprehensive view of the complex systems involved in climate change.
“Very often in academia, we work in silos, or departments,” he says. “With systems, it’s really thinking across those silos…and it’s really taking that perspective that combines those multiple disciplines and then looks at all the feedbacks and interactions.” Continue reading
“To save the spineless world from itself, supplying the truth isn’t enough. You need to supply the spine, too.” – Joe Romm
Photo by Doug Grinbergs
When NASA climate scientist James Hansen testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 1988, it marked a watershed moment in history. Not only did it bring global warming into the public eye, it also set off a major alarm in certain corridors of power that business as usual was under attack.In the years that followed, Hansen was met with considerable censorship, mostly from NASA and the White House, as his efforts to raise public awareness about global warming intensified. But this did little to dampen his conviction, and today Hansen’s message rings louder than ever before.
Fellow climate expert Joe Romm may have summed up Hansen’s struggle better than anyone:
“We live in a spineless world,” he said as he presented Hansen with this year’s Ridenhour Courage Prize. “To save the spineless world from itself, supplying the truth isn’t enough. You need to supply the spine, too.” Continue reading
For years, Climate Interactive’s World Climate exercise has been used in classrooms and conferences around the world to help students and professionals better understand the challenges facing international climate change negotiations. Our friends at MIT have documented a recent exercise that beautifully captures the experience:
Led in this instance by MIT professor and Climate Interactive team member John Sterman, World Climate is simple to play–you can download all the materials for free on our website–and gives participants a very accurate glimpse into the issues facing U.N. climate change negotiations. Participants are broken into six different blocs–the U.S., the EU, other developed countries, China, India and other developing countries–and are tasked with crafting proposals to cap global warming at 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
Participants must agree to a timeline in which they will cap carbon emissions and eventually reduce them. They must also agree to a rate of emissions reductions and can add additional measures such as increasing net forestation. And, of course, they hope to do all this within their own financial means. Continue reading
“Genius has been defined as the ability to come to correct conclusions on insufficient information.”
In his latest blog entry for Governing, former Clinton administration official Robert Knisely offered some sage advice for policymakers: read up on your System Dynamics!
Given that System Dynamics (SD) is the modeling approach that underlies our work at Climate Interactive, we were happy to see it gain further endorsement for government use.
Here’s what Kinsely had to say about SD: Continue reading
“That’s another way we can ensure that traditional skills are passed on!”
“If we modify the program we can include that whole group of kids we were forgetting!”
“Should I invite the funders to come to the village from the start? Even if it’s not perfect they could see where they could help.”
Exclamations like these are the reason I always come back to teaching systems thinking. There’s just no sweeter pleasure than watching someone’s moment of breakthrough insight, especially when the breakthrough holds within it the potential of bigger, faster or better results “at the intersection of peace, justice, and ecology.” That intersection is where the Dalia Lama Fellows work, learn, dream, and experiment, and their playground became my own for a day when I had a chance to introduce the newest class of fellows to the basics of systems thinking.
We gathered together at a retreat center in the hills of Northern California far from their homes in Africa, North America and Asia—and far from my own in Vermont—for a six-hour introduction to vision, stocks, flows and feedback loops as a taste of a body of knowledge they could pursue at home through books, articles and classes like the Climate Leader.
With each fellow immersed in the design of the service project that will be a key part of their fellowship year, I was hopeful that systems thinking would help them see new possibilities and avoid potential pitfalls as they roll out their projects.
Teachers always learn as much as students in settings like this, of course, and a few lessons seem particularly worth sharing as we at CI are investing more energy than ever in making systems thinking training available to a global audience via the Climate Leader.