Climate Interactive in the UK: Building grounded hope on climate solutions

“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.

En-ROADS doable

In our first exercise with U.K. policymakers, the team of Drew JonesMiriam Maes and Alissa Burger used our interactive climate and energy models—C-ROADS and En-ROADS—to spread “grounded hope.”

For those taking on climate change, being grounded and being hopeful need to be two sides of the same coin.

Staying grounded is the goal of systems modelers. The more you experiment with rigorous simulators, the more aware you become of the complexity of the issues facing the world. But not everyone gets this opportunity, so it’s important to get the word out in ways that generate true understanding.

The London workshop, for example, was set against a backdrop of a renewed push for the development of the country’s shale gas industry by Prime Minister David Cameron and Energy Minister Greg Barker, who recently hailed natural gas as tool for mitigating climate change.

This assertion has been made by many in the U.S. as well. But although this makes intuitive sense, it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny from a full systems view.

En-ROADS analysis is showing that significant investment in natural gas, absent a carbon price, is not an effective strategy for addressing climate change,” Jones says.

This is because new natural gas plants compete with not only coal, but also with renewable energy—which is what we really need to be developing. And gas has other effects across the system – for example, methane leakage and long term lock-in of fossil-fuel-based infrastructure. Given its economic and environmental benefits over coal, it’s very tempting to embrace natural gas as the solution to climate change, but staying grounded means we need to look at the big picture and acknowledge the limits of certain solutions.

What it doesn’t mean, however, is that we have an excuse to give up. That’s where the hopeful part comes in. It’s important to remind ourselves that other workable solutions are out there, otherwise it may be easy to fall into despair amid all the challenging news on climate impacts.

To help counter defeatism, we experimented with playfully charging our workshop participants £5 every time they bemoaned that climate risk prevention couldn’t be done. Interestingly enough, they spent very little time grumbling about the difficulty of the task and much more time mapping out solutions.

“Charging a playful ‘naysayer’s tax’ helped people stay open to the possibility of success,” Jones said. “The idea that there are ways to deal with this problem—people really respond to that.”

In other words, building grounded hope and preventing climate risk is—as one participant put it— “doable.”

Click below to see a slideshow of the event: