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Build You Own Climate Change Model

Every day, there are stories in the media about climate change. I have seen none which would make one feel the problem is not real. Based on a new UN report, Axios wrote “Nothing is happening remotely fast enough to save humanity from facing the self-inflicted disaster of runaway climate change”. The issue is how real is the threat exactly and how soon will we see a catastrophic effect? The challenge is the subject consists of incredibly complex and interconnected parts. We really need better ways to understand the full picture and how various policy decisions and goals would affect the situation.

An independent, not-for-profit think-tank which grew out of MIT Sloan in Cambridge, Massachusetts, called Climate Interactive has a solution which allows us to see what is really going on. Their PhD researchers and experts in climate and in information technology have a long history of creating system dynamics models. I studied modeling many years ago in grad school, but the capabilities of computers today were not dreamed of back then. Today, Climate Interactive can create simulations and insights which can help people see the connections between variables and play out scenarios. The models can help us see what works to affect climate change and what the impact would be on issues such as energy, health, and food.

The name of the model created by Climate Interactive is En-ROADS. They have used it to brief dozens of US Senators, Representatives, and their staffers from both sides of the aisle using the simulation. The power of En-ROADS is two-fold: it is accessible and free to all, and simultaneously is grounded in cutting-edge climate, energy, and land science. The En-ROADS simulator has been under development for more than 10 years co-developed by system dynamics modelers at Climate Interactive and MIT. 

The En-Roads tool can test climate interventions and see the effect on mitigating global warming. Users can explore the dynamics in energy supply, land-use, transportation, carbon removal, and other variables. The idea is to take the emotion out of the discussion and focus on the driving forces and the policies which dictate their behavior. To see a two-minute video of En-Roads in action, click here and play the video. To interact with the model yourself, click here. It is pretty slick. You can apply the policies you believe in and see the actual impact.

 

A recent survey of a few thousand people showed concern about the environment is inversely proportional to age. Another way to say it is young people care more about it than older people. Maybe some older folks figure if, in 50 years, we run out of food and our cities are underwater, it won’t matter. Just kidding. I think we all care and would like to see a concerted effort by policy makers to take action and work together. Tools like En-Roads can elevate the discussion.