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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.



Finalists in the MIT Solve Challenge converge on New York

The MIT Solve Challenge, the legendary social impact pitch competition, reached its much-anticipated conclusion on September 22 during UN General Assembly week in New York City. A diverse group of 60 finalists will converge to present solutions around four global issues posed back in May. More than $1.6 million in funding will be available for the selected Solver teams.

MIT Solve advances sustainable solutions proposed by tech entrepreneurs to address the world’s most pressing problems. It issues four global challenges each year. In 2019, those challenges are the circular economy, community-driven innovation, early childhood development, and healthy cities. The goal is to identify the teams that show the most promise to solve some aspect of the challenge and drive transformational change. MIT Solve then links the innovators to its global partners—private, public, and nonprofit leaders that can help make the often audacious visions a reality.

The innovators who have reached the finals in New York will pitch their ideas to a live audience as well as a panel of judges. Those selected will work closely with Solve partners—cross-sector leaders like Starbucks, HP, Johnson & Johnson, and Save the Children. These partners will help the innovators pilot, scale, and implement their tech-based solutions.

Past Solve participants have included Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Eric Schmidt, technical advisor and board member of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, Indra Nooyi, the former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, curator of the MIT Solve Arts and Culture Mentorship Prize.

The MIT Solve Innovation Fund
MIT Solve made headlines in the spring when it announced the launch of the Solve Innovation Fund, a $30-million-dollar philanthropic venture fund that will invest in early-stage entrepreneurs who appear poised to solve a global challenge. Noubar Afeyan, a member of the MIT Corporation and the founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering has already committed up to $3 million to the fund.

“Solve’s mission is to tackle global challenges by helping early-stage innovators from all around the world connect with each other, tap the strength of MIT’s innovation ecosystem and, crucially, gain the resources to transform their ideas into impactful solutions,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “The Solve Innovation Fund is an inspiring step to providing Solver teams with the capital to deliver their solutions at scale.”

Learn more about attending the MIT Solve finals—and about participating in the next round of challenges.