Top Nine Ways to Take Your En-ROADS Climate Workshop from Good to Great

October 8, 2020 by Andrew Jones & Janet Chikofsky

Drew Cop 25 Workshop

After many hours of helping beginner facilitators lead En-ROADS Climate Workshops, we’ve developed with some suggestions for taking your facilitation skills to the next level:

  1. Share these five points about why we have confidence in En-ROADS and “where we get the data.” When people ask “Where do you get your data?” what they really mean is “Why should I believe you?” or “Do you know this model well enough to present it?” Toward the beginning of the workshop, state several of these five points.

    • Climate Interactive and MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative built En-ROADS using the best available science and data
    • With sources such as the IEA (International Energy Agency) and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)
    • All parameters and equations are available in the En-ROADS Technical Reference on the website
    • Climate Interactive and MIT calibrated and tested the model against the suite of large “Integrated Assessment Models” (IAMs) from research laboratories around the world
    • And if anyone disagrees with any parameters or assumptions, they can change many of them in the “Assumptions” pane of the simulator
  1. Introduce the features of the graphs. Always talk the audience through what they see on the graphs by pointing out the lines, mentioning the colors, and telling what they represent. There is a lot of information on the screen, so you need to tell your audience where to direct their eyes.

    For example, “This is a graph that goes from 2000 to 2100. Here we can see coal in brown, oil in red, natural gas in blue, renewable energy in green, etc. On the right hand graph, we can see greenhouse gas net emissions. This is the stuff causing global warming.”

  1. Ask people to think before showing them the result. If people just wait and see what happens, they don’t learn. They need to make some prediction, ideally by speaking it aloud either in the whole group or by turning to the person next to them.

    Use very specific questions, e.g. “Which line do we think is going to change the most — coal in brown? Wind and solar in green? Are they going to go up or down?” After they answer, then tell them where to watch as you make the change, and use the “replay last change” button to see the change happen over and over.

  1. Speak like a scientist when sharing conclusions from the model. Your job as a facilitator is to help others have a scientifically-grounded conversation about climate change. This is not the time for you to be an advocate. Speak confidently but scientifically about the simulator. Admit when you’re wrong or don’t know something. Signal that all views are welcome, even if you personally disagree with a policy. Don’t oversell the simulator. En-ROADS doesn’t “prove” or “predict” anything. Instead, use phrases like “the simulator suggests” and “in this scenario…”
  1. Speak like a friend when helping people absorb conclusions from the model. People tend to have two different emotional reactions to the model. One is excitement for learning about and working on climate solutions. In this case, your job is to be a cheerleader for their work in the world.

    Another reaction is grief for how hard this challenge is. In this case, speak with empathy and compassion. Don’t try to fix their feelings. Hold a space where people can experience and communicate their feelings.

  1. Explain why the system behaves as it does. Don’t say “because the model says so!” when people ask why an action did or didn’t help. Talk through what’s going on in the system and lead people to insights. There are several key dynamics driving the system, some of which might not be intuitive. You can learn more about them in the User Guide section on En-ROADS dynamics.
  1. Use graphs to show and explain. Use the model both to figure out what’s going on, and also to show. For example, you might get a question like “why doesn’t a carbon price discourage oil more in this scenario?” Do some detective work by looking for clues in the graphs, and lead your audience through this with you. In this case, you can look at the “Final Energy Consumption by End Use” graph and notice that in 2100, a large portion of energy for both transport and buildings & industry is still derived from fuel rather than electricity. Oil is not usually used for producing electricity, and you can confirm this by looking at the “Electric Final Energy Consumption by Source” graph. Therefore, there is still a significant demand for oil because many parts of the economy still depend on oil, such as gasoline for cars.

    When you’re curious about what is driving temperature change, these three resources can be especially useful:

    • “Greenhouse Gas Net Emissions by Gas - Area” graph: shows where emissions are coming from
    • Kaya graphs view: shows the drivers of energy
    • “Global Sources of Primary Energy” graph: shows the current mix of fuels
  1. Recognize that an action’s impact alone is quite different from in combination. For example, if you want to increase renewable energy, subsidizing renewables won’t have as much impact if you don’t also electrify the energy system. Notice how renewable energy increases when you electrify transport in this scenario.

    Similarly, the first action you take in a sequence seems to deliver more marginal impact; later, much less. For example, when you have a carbon price and then add another way of taxing a fuel, producers have already taken steps to reduce their supply of that now more expensive fuel, and the impact of an additional policy will be less. It’s helpful to keep an extra tab with En-ROADS open to show what would happen if you did this action on its own.

  1. Watch the Mastering En-ROADS training on Advanced Facilitation.