Climate Simulation

Climate scientists sometimes say that the problem with the world is that it’s only been run once.

With a climate model, you can run one simulation after another. If it’s a good climate model, it’ll give you a useful idea of what the world will look like if we try some different options. Our climate system will respond to things using less coal or planting more trees.

But how much? And how long might it take? And what else do you need to consider? That’s why you need a climate model, and you need to be able to do a lot of math very quickly. Some nice folks at MIT have developed such a model, called EN-ROADS.

This model can be run in a web browser, which means I can run an entire climate workshop from my house. Which I did.

Yup, that’s a climate model, and that’s my dining room.

We had fun! We got to talk as a group about how climate is full of feedback loops and unintended consequences. We saw that while there isn’t a silver bullet for mitigating climate change, there may be silver buckshot. We talked about some more conventional solutions and some that depend on technological breakthroughs. Our group included people who hadn’t thought much about climate change before, and it also included Stephen Apkon and Marcina Hale, who were producers on the film Fantastic Fungi (cool neighbors are a co-benefit of upstate life). So we were able to use the climate simulator as a point of departure for a larger conversation, while still being grounded in actual science.

Yes, you can go in yourself and decide the details of the changes you want to make. This participant already had a lot of expertise around natural gas, so we started there.

I’m excited to bring this workshop to more groups! There’s a game version, a longer version, a shorter version, etc. I’m hoping to bring it to some non-traditional venues as well as community groups and classroom settings. If you’d like me to come run a workshop for you, let me know.

The hanging-out-afterward part did take a while.
All photos (and the paining in the background there) by Richie Miller.

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