Role-Playing a Path to Climate Stabilization

something-bigger-than-ourselves001It was a big week for the Copenhagen Climate Exercise (now World Climate), the role-playing mock-UN policy exercise created here at Sustainability Institute and by John Sterman at MIT where people play the parts of UN diplomats from regions of the world and negotiate a global agreement to address climate change, testing their results in our C-ROADS simulator.

Peter Senge of MIT and the Society for Organizational Learning led one event in Boston for corporate sustainability leaders. An SI team led one with partners in Atlanta (see the poem and pictures above by Doc Klein of Uncharted Territories). And I ran three events for business school students at Duke University.

Time and time again, no matter who is playing, we see similar dynamics:

– Delegates from Africa and island nations (initially seated on the floor)  lobby, cajole, and engage the others

– Delegates from the developed world stay put and wait for others to push them to act (in Atlanta, a large ring formed around the snack-laden table)

– Players are struck by the “bathtub dynamics”, how much we must reduce emissions in order to stabilize atmospheric CO2

– Most all players empathize with the challenge facing all parties — how stuck everyone can feel whether they are sitting in the US, Brazil, China, or Zambia — and are surprised by the proposals out there that could achieve good results.

– People understand deeply that we are truly facing a global challenge and that here in the developed world we get to create the conditions within which growing economies such as China and India can participate fully  (more on this in Pew’s new report).