Climate Change Games

graphic from Keep Cool

In Playing Games with the Climate WorldChanging discusses several games sponsored by the European Climate Forum, including Keep Cool – a climate change policy board game co-developed by Gerhard Petschel Held from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

The game Keep Cool was a hit in Germany, where it sold out of stores.

The game lets:

each player takes a role within global climate politics. You have to put through economic interests, e.g. of the USA and its partners or of the Developing Countries. Yet you must not forget the strong lobby groups in your country like the oil industry or environmental groups as they also decide whether you win or loose. Within each round of the game you have to decide between measures for climate protection good for all and egoistic decisions just for your owns sake. The risk: catastrophes like droughts, floods or pandemics. The chance: welfare and a stable global climate. Whoever reaches his or her targets first wins, yet if you are not cooperative enough all players might loose due to a collapse of the world climate.

Tragically, and unexpectedly, Gerhard died in the summer of 2005. Those of us who knew him lost of great friend, while the scientific community lost a great mind.

Explaining why he developed the game Gerhard wrote:

You might ask why a scientific institute seeks to develop a board game. It is certainly not the primary task of scientists and it is despite of its potential success nothing which promotes our careers. Yet two questions were interesting when we started to develop the game:

1) Is it possible to reduce the complexity of the issue “climate change” to make it available for a board game and still retain the major elements and processes?

2) To what extent can a board game promote the general knowledge on climate change and the understanding of difficulties and obstacles for reaching an effective climate protection policy? In other words: can a game help to communicate scientific results?

These are not only interesting questions, but are actually very important when it comes to communicating the complex problem of climate change and protection. An interdisciplinary effort is needed as knowledge from different scientific disciplines, ranging from economics, via political science to physics and ecology need to be integrated. The reduction to a “good” game, however, was actually a scientific challenge: what is essential about all these elements and processes. In the end, it turned out that desiging such a game was actually like building a model. And that is what this game represents: an interactive model of climate change and protection.

He was also a key developer of the syndromes approach to global change –

the Syndrome’s Approach which decomposes processes governing the dynamics of non-sustainable Global Change into major patterns of human-civilization interactions. Syndromes result from the incompatibility of socio-economic, political, and cultural dynamics of human use of nature on the one hand and natural processes of resilience, recovery, and renewal on the other. They are homeostatic, i.e., intrinsically stabilised by their internal interactions and thus represent entities of the coupled human-nature system. More concretely, the investigations focus on land-use change in general, particularly within selected developing countries and countries in transition on the one hand and the issue of urban sprawl in Europe on the other.

Additionally, he was a major contributor to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, providing important contributions to both the MA scenarios and the sub-global assessments.

Gerhard’s insight, humour, and energy are greatly missed.

2 thoughts on “Climate Change Games”

  1. Hallo,
    sometimes when I miss Gerhard much more than I can bear I google his name. I am always deeply touched when I read how important Gerhard was for a lot of people.
    Thanks for remembering him.

    Best wishes
    Ulrike Held

  2. That is a great tribute. To follow up on Climate Change and Global Warming visit my directory for all the info links. Great for research or study in these topics.

    Al Pal

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