En-ROADS climate simulator: it’s our turn to play!
Clearly and concretely grasping the effects of a given policy on climate change may prove complicated for ordinary mortals. Hence the joint idea from MIT Sloan School of Management and the think tank Climate Interactive*, who have designed a free simulator for the general public: En-ROADS.
En-ROADS compiles 100 years of energy, land and climate data. Thanks to its intuitive interface, the simulator allows the user to move sliders to implement policies to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions: the energy demand from transport and (industrial, residential and commercial) buildings; energy production from nuclear, coal, oil, gas, biomass, renewables; emissions from deforestation, agriculture and land use, etc.
With En-ROADS, the user can activate all the levers to explore the impact of policies designed to limit global warming to 2°C by 2100 and identify possible solutions in under a second. An advanced mode allows them to choose more specific policies, such as carbon pricing, new technology subsidies, and potential technical advances. These scenarios instantly signal the impact of their choices on global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, energy demand, production and prices, etc.
“Powerful simulators have fueled climate wonks for decades,” states Andrew Jones, Climate Interactive’s co-founder and co-director. “En-ROADS is designed for a very broad audience, ranging from corporate CEOs to socially aware citizens.” He also adds that “major decision makers — Total, Equinor and HSBC along with U.S. Congress members — have demonstrated their interest in exploring the tool in more depth, after reviewing it in its beta phase.”
As they make their choices, the user sees the temperature in 2100 — programmed at +4.1°C compared to the preindustrial era — instantly rise or fall. “En-ROADS allows people to learn for themselves by exploring how the policies they choose affect the energy system and climate… and see for themselves how sensitive their results are to uncertainty,” explains John Sterman, co-designer of the simulator and professor of System Dynamics at MIT. “Simulation is the best way to learn when experiential learning is too expensive or simply impossible.”
The only hiccup: despite its realistic dimension, En-ROADS does not incorporate certain data that are much more complex in reality, such as the thorny question of geopolitical power relations between nations. Andrew Jones highlights this reservation, “This is a tool for grounded hope. While there is no magic bullet to reverse climate change, we can still avoid its worst effects.”
* The Sloan School of Management is one of the five Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) schools and one of the leading international business schools. A center for research and teaching in finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, strategic management, economics, corporate sociology, etc., its alumni include several leading figures in industry, politics and academia.
Climate Interactive is an American think tank that creates innovative, accessible and scientifically rigorous interactive tools. These tools are used by thousands of people worldwide, from the highest level of government to the classroom.