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Individual Reflection Paper: Climate Game Simulation

Climate Game Simulation 11/12/17

Madam Secretary-General and UN delegate for Viet Nam

The happy participants after solving global warming

This paper is about a group project that I organized and participated in called "The World Climate Simulation". The World Climate Simulation is a role-playing negotiation exercise that engages participants in an entertaining way while learning about climate change. Participants work together as delegates of various nations for a common goal of keeping the Earth’s temperature from surpassing more than 2 degrees Celsius from our current temperature by 2100. The simulations main objective is to help participants gain insight into the causes of climate change and to see the possibility of success in addressing the climate challenge.

I prepared for the activity by first deciding which nations should be represented. I had coerced my family to be the delegates by suggesting a family activity while we spent the holiday together. There would be eight participants, so I decided to have two representatives from the Developed World - The United States and the European Union, three from Developing A Nations - India, China and Brazil, and three from Developing B Nations - Solomon Islands, Kenya, and Vietnam. Assigned randomly the evening before the activity, my family had time to research and adapt to their roles. I then reread the
World Climate Facilitator's Guide, and printed the handouts.

The next day I welcomed the delegates as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, thanking them for participating in the discussion of global climate change. Delegates introduced themselves and gave the basic statistics of their country, including main exports, population, and GDP.

As the Secretary-General, I gave a general presentation on how historical emissions have caused cumulative CO₂ in the atmosphere and the temperature could only decrease if the future emissions are less than the removals. I made it clear to my delegates that if we create a climate policy that stabilizes emissions at current levels it would still be far above the net removals - i.e. the bathtub will overflow unless a more drastic policy is created. As suggested in The Facilitator's Guide, I summarized by explaining: that “most of the money and the emissions to date have come from the Developed world, most of the future emissions will most likely come from the Developing A Nations, and the effects of climate change will be felt most strongly in the Developing B Nations.”

As we broke into our three groups I gave them their goal - to achieve an international agreement that would keep the global temperature at or below 2 degrees Celsius from our current temperature. This goal cannot be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently. Since this is a collective problem at a global scale, international cooperation is required to effectively mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Switching roles, as a delegate for Viet Nam, I joined the Developing Countries B team. We started, as each group did, by going over our objectives. First, assessing any actions we can take to reduce carbon emissions. We felt that as poor nations we could only pledge a concerted effort to slow our greenhouse gas output.

Next, we were to decide if we could make a commitment to reduce deforestation and/or increase reforestation. Since most of the world’s remaining tropical forests are in the developing countries we felt a great responsibility towards their protection. However, our primary focus must be defending our people and lifting them out of poverty.

Our final objective as a group was to decide how much funding to demand from the developing nations. The Green Climate Fund was created to help developing countries cut emissions and adapt to the effects of carbon emissions. Climate change in our nations is a rising public concern and has already been a detriment to our nations. This concern is especially true for the Solomon Islands, which has already lost five islands to rising sea levels, while six more are losing large swaths of land causing houses to be washed away. Because the effect of the changing climate is so pronounced, and we have not caused the excess, we felt it was unfair to pay the price for the current abundance of CO₂ in our atmosphere.

To increase our chances of getting the funding we wanted we made our proposals specific. The allocation of the monies would be focusing on near-term actions - Solomon Islands would relocate and build anew for those under threat of the rising waters. Kenya would further develop geothermal power in their Rift Valley, a geographical phenomenon in which the hot rocks are close to the surface. And Vietnam would focus on investments in the construction of an adaptive infrastructure to prepare for the loss of its shoreline and increased salinity in the rivers.

The negotiating stances of the developing nations varied from unreasonable to acquiescent. Knowing that his country had the largest decrease in emissions, the United States delegate thought they should be lauded. The delegate from the European Union agreed that America's emissions had decreased; however, America was still the largest per capita emitter and was responsible for the current bumper of CO₂ in the atmosphere. As developed nations, they must do the most to help the less developed countries abate their past actions.

The developing A countries agreed that the near future will show the majority of their population to be moving to the cities. Their rapid economic growth could be advantageous in building a clean energy infrastructure. The expanded cities required to accommodate the growth could be built with intention towards efficiency which would reduce their future emissions and - accelerate the advent of sustainable energy while allowing them the chance to reach the level of economic development the developed countries now enjoy.

After running the scenarios in the climate simulator we were suddenly aware of what the future would hold if we did not prepare. All delegates eventually came to the table with solutions, most impressively, China, who would cap its CO₂ emissions by 2030 and plan to get 20% of its electricity from the wind, sun, dams, and fusion. Other nations strategies included a prominent shift to clean energy, improving energy efficiency, changing behavior, moving toward sustainable consumption, carbon pricing, and protecting and enhancing natural carbon sinks.

The simulation illustrated the scale and pace of transformation necessary to achieve long-term goals.


  1. Here are some minor errors:
    It's the change in the Earth's temperature that should not be 2 degrees Celsius, not the
    actual temperature.
    Carbon dioxide is CO_2 (i.e. the 2 is a subscript). [This editor doesn't seem to allow me
    to put subscripts in the symbol.]

    Larry A. Viehland


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