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Simulators Help Urban Planners Prioritize Climate Action

The cost of inaction and procrastination has made our fight against climate change an uphill battle. To keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world must reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next eight years. According to the World Resources Institute, plans and commitments coming out of COP26 would limit global warming to 2.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, a far cry from what scientists agree is a safe target. Many countries made net-zero pledges, but most don’t have policies in place to achieve their updated 2030 pledges, much less net-zero commitments.

If your city, community or organization wants to expedite its path to sustainability and resiliency, a new tool can help stakeholders evaluate the impact of various options.

Thanks to Climate Interactive, you can role-play the UN Climate Negotiations or calculate the emissions reduction potential of various sustainability policies and actions.

These tools can be used to influence decision-makers and members of Congress, to help them understand the impacts and solutions. Climate Interactive made these tools freely available to everyone to build the necessary climate ambition we need to create a livable future for all. More than 75,000 people, including 1,000 leaders in the government, business, nonprofit, think tank, and foundation sectors have used En-ROADS. The US State Department, the Chinese Government, and the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s office have used the models.

“This is the only tool that rapidly maps the connection between specific policy options and sea level rise,” said Bethany Patten, Senior Associate Director of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative and lead on The Climate Pathways Project. “It’s a critical one given the current climate policy deliberations happening in Congress.” 

Climate Interactive creates accessible, scientific tools that help people see connections, play out scenarios, and see what works. Climate Interactive, in partnership with the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative, created two online tools that make climate science and climate action more accessible and easier to understand:

  • En-ROADS (Energy Rapid Overview and Decision Support) is a free, online simulation tool that models warming based on input climate actions and policies focused on things like taxes, subsidies, economic growth, fuel mix, energy efficiency, technical innovation, and other factors.
  • C-ROADS (Climate Rapid Overview and Decision Support) is a climate change policy simulator that tests countries’ emissions reduction pledges to determine whether they are sufficient to stay within the planetary limitations scientists agree on.

“Our goal is to help people understand the vast scope of possible actions that we can take on climate,” said Ellie Johnston, climate and energy program coordinator for Climate Interactive. “We synthesized the best available science from reports and institutions like the International Energy Agency, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the World Bank to create a free and easy-to-use model.”

As Johnston explained, En-ROADS and C-ROADS are tools to test climate models and different variables. Simulating different climate and policy actions helps determine which climate actions will have the greatest impact. There is no single solution. Users can evaluate the impact of carbon pricing, forest conservation, electric vehicles, fossil fuel subsidies and more. The En-ROADS program predicts which policies and strategies will have the biggest impact. It helps stakeholders visualize rising seal levels, floods, droughts and more. Users can determine which species are losing critical habitat due to climate change. Users can estimate the impact of global warming and climate change on crop yields. It also can estimate the impact of rising temperatures on public health.

If you’re more interested in the nuances of high-stakes negotiations and climate justice, the C-ROADS program provides that perspective. 

“People are hungry for that silver bullet that’s going to fix climate change, whether it’s driving an electric car or changing their diets. But it takes more than one seed to plant a garden,” Johnston said. “Those things are helpful, but En-ROADS shows the role they play and where there is leverage. It shows the whole picture and the required suite of actions. We can do everything to promote good actions, but above all, we must stop extracting fossil fuels. There aren’t any scenarios that keep us below 1.5 degrees Celsius that involve expansion of fossil fuel use. Even the IEA is saying there is no other option but to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

The urgency of this crisis demands that we push our own governments for ambitious and necessary climate action. These tools can be used to influence decision-makers and members of Congress, to help them understand the options and impacts. Climate Interactive made these tools freely available to everyone to build the necessary climate ambition we need to create a livable future.

“We can think about how challenging this will be or we can look at all of the amazing benefits that come with climate action,” Johnston said. “Shutting down coal plants reduces air pollution and saves lives. Future generations will be able to breathe cleaner air than any of us have ever experienced.”

To learn more visit Climate Interactive. To access the climate solutions simulator, click here.

Greener Cities and climate action

Greener Cities is a division of Crossbow Communications. Greener Cities is a resource for sustainable and resilient cities and communities around the world.

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Author: Gary Chandler

Gary Chandler is a sustainability strategist, author and advocate. Follow him on Twitter @Gary_Chandler