World Climate

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.

The World Climate Exercise in action at MIT’s Sloan School of Management


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.

John Sterman leads a World Climate exercise at MIT

Exercises run from 1.5-3 hours.

The simulation was first known as the Copenhagen Climate Exercise. Over the past years, Drew JonesJohn Sterman of MIT, and many others have run the policy exercise for European business leaders in Greenland, European Union government policymakers, oil executives, the U.S. 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.

 Phil Rice World Climate

More Information

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, with lead author Dr. John Sterman. And watch the video of Dr. John Sterman and Kris Wile leading it.

Video of the world climate exercise held for Dartmouth students

The simulation model at the core of World Climate is called C-ROADS and was created by Climate InteractiveVentana Systems, and MIT’s System Dynamics Group.

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 several other sources, including the Center for a New American Security’s 2.5-day “Clout and Climate Change” War Game; the 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.