World Climate Simulation

Thursday 2:30pm-2:50pm Weeks Geo: AB20
Teaching Demonstration

Session Chair

Juliette Rooney-Varga, University of Massachusetts-Lowell


This presentation will provide a brief overview of World Climate, a simulation-based role-playing exercise, as well as a live demonstration of the computer simulation, C-ROADS, that frames the exercise.


World Climate is a simulation-based role-playing exercise in which participants take on the roles of delegates to the UN climate negotiations and are challenged to create a global deal that, according to current scientific understanding, meets international climate goals. Participants make decisions on emissions, afforestation, and deforestation, which are continually assessed through interactive exploration climate change science via the C-ROADS computer simulation. The exercise delivers key insights about emissions, atmospheric CO2, the global C cycle, the scale of action needed to meet stated international climate goals, and the complexity of achieving those goals among diverse geopolitical interests. Participants propose any policies they choose, including no action, and explore alternative assumptions about the response of the climate to GHG emissions. The role-play facilitates discussion of participants' understanding and mental models, without attempting to dictate them. The simulation shows participants likely consequences of their choices, but does not prescribe solutions.


This activity is extremely versatile and has been used with participants ranging from middle school students to graduate students, scientists, CEOs, and citizens. It combines climate change science with policy and decision-making and is appropriate for courses in diverse disciplines, such as the geosciences, other natural sciences, political science, sociology, management, leadership development, ethics, and more. Participants take on active roles during World Climate, bringing whatever prior knowledge they may have to the activity, with strong potential for participants to enrich each others' experience.

Why It Works

World Climate provides an immersive experience in which participants grapple with climate change science and the social dynamics of climate change decision-making. It is grounded in systems thinking and, without being prescriptive, enables participants to come to their own insights about climate change and potential societal pathways to mitigate its impacts. Our research thus far has demonstrated that it is engaging, memorable, and very effective at delivering key insights into the climate system and the societal drivers that impact it.