Climate Bathtub Simulation

What happens if we cap carbon emissions at current levels? Or continue their growth? Or reduce them? This simple animated simulation of the global carbon system is great for helping people explore the relationship between carbon emissions and atmospheric CO2.

Bathtub Simulation

The Climate Bathtub Simulation is a brief, animated, interactive simulation game that teaches several principles regarding the dynamics of the global carbon cycle and climate change. Designed for both children and adults, its purpose is to improve understanding of how changes in carbon dioxide emissions will affect levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The sim was created by a collaboration of several individuals including staff here at Climate Interactive and is copyrighted by Schlumberger Ltd.

Resources for Using and Sharing the Bathtub Sim

Sim Background

The mathematical model underneath the animation is a System Dynamics model built by Dr. Thomas Fiddaman as part of his 1997 PhD thesis at MIT. A portion of the model was then distilled into a simplified stock-and-flow framework by his thesis advisor, Dr. John Sterman of the System Dynamics Group at MIT. Dr. Sterman and Dr. Linda Booth Sweeney, then a graduate student in education, used the stock-and-flow framework to study the public misunderstandings of climate change dynamics, confirming the need for new tools to improve public understanding. They published their findings in the journal, Climatic Change. Andrew Jones and Don Seville also wrote an article on these findings and identified the need for better learning tools.

Dr. Sterman and his team at MIT then constructed an online interactive simulator to enable people to explore the climate dynamics they found most commonly misunderstood.

SEED, the community development program of Schlumberger Ltd, led by Michael Tempel and Simone Amber, and Linda Booth Sweeney then convened these collaborators plus Dr. Peter Senge of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) and MIT to create the Climate Bathtub Sim They worked with Dr. Idit Caperton and MaMaMedia to create the interactive simulation with children and youth in mind. Sustainability Institute (SI), supported by IT at Citigroup and Nike, joined to bridge the science and model with the communications and Sim design. The Bathtub Sim is copyrighted by Schlumberger Ltd and is one of many simulations on science, climate, and systems thinking.

Various members of the team are now engaged in developing further simulations to help people better understand the complex dynamics in our world, like the World Climate Exercise a game for groups to simulate the dynamics of negotiating a global climate change agreement using the computer simulation C-ROADS.