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How a game prompted ‘the big talk’ about geoengineering governance

by Andrew Jones, Climate Interactive / May 3, 2018

Big yellow dice, hands miming umbrellas, and a noisy electric bread cutter – these are the ingredients for dialogue about climate geo-engineering governance, right?

With the new game To Tech or Not to Tech, by Pablo Suarez of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, they definitely are.

We played it last week as part of my class in system dynamics and sustainability for 45 international MBA students at UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan Flagler Business School, and it worked its magic.

Teams represented five world countries and prepared for possible extreme events – Big floods? Big droughts? – in the face of increasingly baffling uncertainty. Stakes are high; potential suffering is real. And, somehow, Pablo’s game design made this daunting and often depressing task enormously fun and engaging.

I won’t reveal the dramatic surprises in Decisions but know that they are riveting.

Beyond riveting, the dramatic twists set up the best conversation amongst ‘newbies’ I’ve ever heard about governing the terrifying possibility of climate geo-engineering.

I’ll note that I’ve tried other approaches – e.g., a “Pro-Con-Maybe” style debate with last year’s class of MBA students, but found that approach to be overly rational and just plain boring.

My students (again, 80% of whom had never heard of geo-engineering), wrestled with, arguably four of the biggest questions that humanity faces: “Who should decide? Under what conditions? What are the considerations? Whose voice matters?” (With a large dose of: “Has it really come to this?” and “No one would allow this, right?”)

But I also heard, to my delight, “Can we please play this game again?”

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