Let the Games Begin: New Opportunities to Address Climate Change Communication, Education, and Decision Support

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:20 AM
Juliette N Rooney-varga1, John Sterman2, Andrew Jones3, Ellie Johnston3, Kenneth Rath4 and Jared Nease1, (1)UMass Lowell, Climate Change Initiative, Lowell, MA, United States, (2)Massachusetts Institute of Technology, System Dynamics Group, Cambridge, MA, United States, (3)Climate Interactive, Washington, DC, United States, (4)Sage Fox Consulting Group, Amherst, United States
A rapid transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient society is not only possible, but could also bring many co-benefits for public health, economic wellbeing, social equity, and more. The science supporting an urgent need for such a transition has never been clearer. Yet, social science data are also clear: the public in the US (and many other similar developed economies) does not, on average, share this sense of urgency, nor have policymakers shown a willingness to put scientific evidence above the perceptions of their constituents. The gulf between scientific and public understanding of climate change has spurred research on climate change communication, learning, and decision-making, identifying barriers such as misconceptions and faulty mental models of the climate and energy systems; poor understanding of complex, dynamic systems generally; and affective and social barriers to learning and action. There is also a growing opportunity to address these barriers, through tools that rely on active learning, that are social, engaging (and even fun), and that are grounded in rigorous science. An increasing number of decision-support computer simulations are being developed, intended to make complex technical problems accessible to non-experts in an interactive format. At the same time, the use of scenario planning, role-playing games, and active learning approaches are gaining ground in policy and education spheres. Simulation-based role-playing games bring these approaches together and can provide powerful learning experiences: they offer the potential to compress time and reality; create experiences without requiring the 'real thing;' explore the consequences of our decisions that often unfold over decades; and open affective and social learning pathways. Here, we offer a perspective on the potential of these tools in climate change education, communication, and decision-support, and a brief demonstration of one tool we have developed, World Energy.