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Category: Climate Change

Pioneering Climate Simulator Gives Everyone the Chance to Calculate the Impact of Climate Solutions

The vast and sobering implications of climate change can be overwhelming to contemplate. What are the best solutions—and will they actually work? MIT Sloan, the MIT Sustainability Initiative, and Climate Interactive, a nonprofit think-tank that spun out of MIT Sloan, have just launched the En-ROADS climate solutions simulator to give people the opportunity to explore the true

MIT Sloan Professor John Sterman unveils the En-ROADS climate solutions simulator

impact of climate change solutions. The idea is to identify policies and actions that will help limit warming to within two degrees Celsius by 2100.

The free simulator is so user-friendly that school children can use it to instantaneously simulate interactions among energy, land, and climate. An advanced iteration of the system dynamics model En-ROADS, which was developed at MIT Sloan, the new simulator is designed for policymakers, educators, business, nonprofit and government leaders, and ordinary citizens invested in identifying climate solutions.

Research indicates that just presenting people with research is ineffective, according to John Sterman, director of the MIT System Dynamics Group at MIT Sloan and faculty director of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative. “En-ROADS allows people to learn for themselves by exploring how the policies they choose affect the energy system and climate. Users get instant results, allowing them to experiment with a wide range of assumptions and policies that can help limit global warming and build a healthy, prosperous future in which all people can thrive.”

How the simulator works
En-ROADS users move sliders to simulate the implementation of policies designed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Options include policies affecting global energy demand; energy production from coal, oil, gas, biomass, renewables, and nuclear; emissions from deforestation, agriculture, and land use; technologies created to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; and future economic growth. Graphs illustrate outcomes in relation to global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, as well as energy demand, production, and prices. Users are free to share climate scenarios on social media.

“Powerful simulators have fueled climate wonks for decades. This one works for users ranging from corporate CEOs and policy makers to smart eighth graders,” says cofounder and codirector of Climate Interactive Andrew Jones. He notes that business leaders and politicians from both political parties have had the opportunity to review En-ROADS in its beta phase and have indicated an interest in additional exploration.  In fact, heads of state, bipartisan members of Congress, and leaders of nonprofit and corporate entities have relied on simulation results from earlier versions of En-ROADS to inform crucial decisions.

Sterman compares En-ROADS to simulators used in other settings. “Pilots learn to fly a new jet in simulators before going up in the real thing,” he says. “Surgical teams learn to work together in medical simulations. Power plant operators learn to handle potential emergencies in simulators. In these settings, and for climate change, failure is not an option. The En-ROADS simulator enables people to learn for themselves what it will take to avoid the worst consequences of global warming before it’s too late.”

Learn more about the En-ROADS project.

Try out the En-ROADS climate solutions simulator.



Bloomberg announces $500 Million Climate Change Initiative

Michael Bloomberg

“Fifty years ago next month, the Apollo 11 lunar module touched down on the moon. It’s fair to say the crew never would have gotten there without MIT,” Michael Bloomberg told the assembled at MIT’s commencement ceremonies this month. “I don’t just mean that because Buzz Aldrin was class of  ’63 here and took Richard Battin’s famous astrodynamics course…the Apollo 11 literally got there thanks to its navigation and control systems that were designed right here at what is now the Draper Laboratory.”

Bloomberg’s compelling address was packed with perspectives about history and science, leading to blunt observations about the race to combat climate change—and an announcement that he is putting his money where his mouth is. He revealed that his foundation Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has been working for years to rally cities, states, and businesses to get serious about climate change, is committing $500 million to the launch of a new national initiative called Beyond Carbon. The goal: to move the U.S. toward a 100 percent clean energy economy as expeditiously as possible. “We intend to succeed,” he added, “not by sacrificing things we need, but by investing in things we want: more good jobs, cleaner air and water, cheaper power, more transportation options, and less congested roads.”

An immediate and inescapable challenge
Climate change, he noted, is today’s equivalent of the man-on-the-moon challenge—but with greater consequences—the future of humanity. “Our most important and pressing mission…is not only to explore deep space and reach faraway places. It is to save our own planet, the one that we’re living on, from climate change.”

He told the audience of graduates and their families that scientists and technologists have already pioneered the technology to tackle climate change—to power buildings with solar and wind power, to power vehicles with batteries charged with renewable energy, and to power factories and industry using hydrogen and fuel cells. He added that such innovations don’t require an economic sacrifice. “Just the opposite, these investments, on balance, create jobs and save money.”

The question he posed to the commencement audience: “Why the hell are we moving so slowly? The race we are in is against time, and we are losing. In the past decade alone, we’ve seen historic hurricanes devastate islands across the Caribbean. We’ve seen ‘thousand-year floods’ hit the Midwestern and Southern United States multiple times in a decade. We’ve seen record-breaking wildfires ravage California, and record-breaking typhoons kill thousands in the Philippines. This is a true crisis.” Scientists, Bloomberg said, understand that there can be no delay in taking action.

In response to those who believe that climate change is only a theory, he quipped. “Yeah, like gravity is only a theory. People can ignore gravity at their own risk, at least until they hit the ground. But when they ignore the climate crisis, they are not only putting themselves at risk, they are putting all humanity at risk.”

Learn more about Bloomberg’s speech and his plans for Beyond Carbon.