Our Very First Sim - the Bathtub

August 20, 2008 by Andrew P. Jones

We are here to use online, accessible simulations to help stabilize the climate.

To that end, we developed our very first sim: the Climate Change Bathtub.

bathtub sim bathtub sim

Here is its story:

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 distilled into a simplified stock-and-flow framework by Dr. Fiddaman’s thesis advisor, Dr. John Sterman of the System Dynamics Group at MIT and tested it with a range of groups for its effectiveness at teaching the dynamics insights.

Dr. Sterman and Dr. Linda Booth Sweeney, then a graduate student in education, used the stock-and-flow framework to research the public misunderstanding 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 wrote an article on these findings and identified the need for better learning tools.

Sterman and his team at MIT constructed an online interactive simulator to teach the principles.

SEED, the community development program of Schlumberger Ltd, led by Michael Tempel and Simone Amber, and Linda Booth Sweeney then convened the collaborators named above plus Dr. Peter Senge of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) and MIT to create the “Climate Bathtub Sim.” They engaged Dr. Idit Caperton and MaMaMedia to create the interactive simulation with children and youth in mind. Sustainability Institute, 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.

Morgan Stanley’s Office of the Environment then produced a video of SI’s Andrew Jones talking the viewer through the key insights of the Sim.

Beth Sawin, Phil Rice, and others at SI’s Our Climate Ourselves program are developing approaches to support action on climate change that complement the Bathtub Sim.

Various members of the team are now engaged in developing further simulations similar to the Climate Bathtub Sim.