The BBC has created an online flash game – climate challenge – in which the player is president of the “European Nations”. The player has to try to reduce green house gas emissions while maintaining the economy, energy, agriculture and water availability – while being re-elected. The game is meant to illustrate what options are trade-offs are available to politicians, as well as the need to have policies at different aspects of society. However, some of the game mechanics and feedbacks are unclear (particularly how the economic part of the game works). Nevertheless the game is fun to try.
The game makers explain their rationale for making the game. They write:
The producers’ primary goal was to make a fun, challenging game. At times it was necessary to strike a compromise between strict scientific accuracy and playability. For this reason, Climate Challenge should not be taken as a serious climate change prediction.Apart from the primary goal of creating a fun game, Climate Challenge’s producers aimed to:
- give an understanding of some of the causes of climate change, particularly those related to carbon dioxide emissions.
- give players an awareness of some of the policy options available to governments.
- give a sense of the challenges facing international climate change negotiators.
Players must respond to catastrophic events caused by climate change as well as natural and manmade events, which may or may not be linked to climate change. This aspect of the game is meant to give some idea of what could happen as the Earth’s climate changes and also introduce the unpredictable nature of some natural events.
To maintain consistency, the statistics in the game are listed in the following units:
- Money is measured in millions of euros.
- Energy is measured in megawatt hours.
- Food is measured in millions of tonnes.
- Water is measured in trillions of litres of water
- Carbon dioxide is measured in megatonnes (millions of tonnes), sometimes referred to as teragrammes.
All policies are taken from actual government policy documents, except those near the end of the game, which are deliberately futuristic, such as Mining the Moon. The UK government’s Climate Change Programme 2006 was a major source of policies, and the anticipated carbon dioxide reductions from each were transferred directly from the report into the game. The Potential for Microgeneration: Study and Analysis, carried out by the Energy Saving Trust for the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), was also very useful in determining emissions reductions in many household-level policies.In testing, it was found that having policy cards lasting for several turns was too complex for the scale of the game. Therefore the duration of all the cards has been artificially compressed to give all their modifiers in one single turn. This means that a card’s effects are much higher in the short term than would be the case in real life. Behind this there is also a necessary assumption about how many turns a card is in play. We have assumed that power and carbon dioxide effects are in play for five turns (50 years), and food and water effects for 10 turns (100 years).
The crisis events that are caused by climate change are taken from the Impacts, Adaptation & Vulnerability Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC. Other climate-related events, such as the climate concert, are inspired by real events.Energy, food and water are the secondary resources that must be managed throughout the game. Data for these were taken from various sources, including the UNEP model mentioned above and the DTI website.Spending money is set at 0.5% of the GDP of the economies, and the figures for power, water and food consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are also derived from data from the UNEP Java climate model.
Food and water statistics were hard to quantify, as the values needed for the game are not typically published by water companies and the food industry. In these instances, the producers used estimates derived in respect to other cards.