In May, I took part in my first World Climate simulation exercise in Marrakech. We had a diverse group of participants from research institutions, universities, the private sector, youth organizations, and government agencies. While I was intrigued by the scientific rigour behind C-ROADS, the computer model we use in the exercise, the role playing during the negotiation rounds brought into reality the challenge of arriving at a unified global commitment among different countries. As we took on the role of different negotiating blocks and countries, we soon started thinking like those countries’ negotiators. I reflect here on four dynamics I observed in the simulation:
First, the World Climate is grounded on the philosophy of learning by experience. When we see the connectedness of our world and the impact of the decisions we make, we are better informed on what changes are required and what it would take to realize them. By using a tool like C-ROADS, participants learn that science, when well packaged and communicated, has great potential to influence change in people’s behaviour. During the first round of negotiations, all the countries and negotiating blocs seem to comfortably set their targets based on their individual geopolitical interests. However, once the commitments are entered into the software, and the participants observe from the graphs what little impact their commitments yield, they become determined to set more ambitious targets. In this way, C-ROADS inspires new action among the participants and allows them to reconsider the geopolitical and scientific factors that limit them from setting ambitious targets.
Second, World Climate allows you to experience how challenging negotiating an ambitious global climate deal can be within the UN system. Countries have to consider what they stand to lose or gain when they set their targets. For instance, the developing countries will often consider their priorities to industrialize and grow their economies before they can cut emissions while developed countries like the United States may think of their economic competitiveness in relation to other nations such as China. For these reasons, it was difficult to reconcile the global commitment with the nationally determined contributions. Nevertheless, when negotiators observe that for any significant change to occur, each one of them has to make a commitment, they are more willing to compromise and set better targets.
Third, the World Climate Simulation suits different audiences and diverse groups. I observed that while some of us were deeply discussing the geopolitical issues around climate change, others were engrossed in understanding the different variables of the C-ROADS software and attempting to answer varied questions. Private sector participants were interested in understanding the systems thinking approach embedded in World Climate so that they could apply it in their corporate human resources training. University lecturers were interesting in understanding our tools as teaching aids for their graduate students while leaders of youth organizations focused on the usability of World Climate for social justice training. In just one exercise in Marrakech, we served multiple needs and enabled each participant to have a deeper understanding of the complexity of the climate challenge.
Finally, the World Climate debrief is among the most enriching moments for participants and facilitators. Not only do participants get to share their feelings and experiences of the role-play, they also have a chance to reflect on the kind of actions they will take. The debriefing illuminates the priorities for different groups of people. For example, among African climate leaders, we would expect their reflections to be around adaptation to expected climate impacts such as food insecurity, disease prevalence, migration, biodiversity loss, drought, and floods. In summary, these science-based, easy-to-use computer models and thought-provoking exercises allow people from all backgrounds to reflect on the individual and collective action that would be required to meet the global commitment of keeping the world temperatures well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels while also achieving other goals of adaptation, economic growth and human-wellbeing.
These four purposes of World Climate – facilitating learning by experience, experiencing UN climate negotiations, multiple problem-solving and igniting climate action – are the core of Climate Interactive’s mission in Africa in 2016.