Modeling and simulation are good tools to use to understand a problem. They let you try out multiple approaches and different possible solutions to see what the results may be. Games can be an appealing way of presenting simulations. Complex ideas can be presented in a context that illuminates the difficulties of the situation. We learn by trying out different options. Multiple, interrelated factors can be more readily presented in an interactive fashion than in a dry recitation. Playing a game can be educational because we are more engaged with understanding what is going on (in the course of trying to figure out how to win) than we are when we are simply reading or hearing about something.
The Climate Challenge game gives you a chance to try to find the right balance of policies and incentives to deal with the issues of climate, CO2 emissions, and government policy. This online game is hosted by the BBC. It's a game that plays quickly enough that you can play it on a lunch break. It poses real challenges in addressing difficult government policy issues, but without becoming overwhelmingly complex. I think it might even be accessible for middle school level children.
In the game, you are playing the "President of Europe." You have ten turns (each turn representing one decade) to address global warming and CO2 emissions issues, while maintaining enough public support for your policies to remain in office. Too many taxes and restrictions, and you'll be voted out of office. But if you don't address the cliamte issues in a meaningful fashion, you won't succeed in reducing CO2 emissions, and global warming will lead to cliamte upheaval.
Each turn you can chose from different programs for your government to promote in five areas: National, Trade, Industry, Local, and Household policy. Some programs are precursors to other programs, so investing in rail transport early in the game allows you to support maglev trains later on, to promote use of public transit to reduce energy use and CO2 contributions from transport. Your policies also have an effect on your budget, as well as your national energy, food, and water, and on CO2 emissions, which are tracked for you in a graphic display. You also have to consider the public opinion to each of the policies you choose. Too many unpopular choices will lead to you being voted out of office.
The game also includes negotiation sessions, which occur every few turns. These give you an opportunity to engage with other world leaders to address CO2 emissions targets. In your own mini-Kyoto negotiation, you can try to influence the leaders of other governments to agree to CO2 reduction goals. You may be taking some steps to reduce your CO2 a bit, but as a global problem, it will require agreement from all sides in order to make a meaningful difference.
I've played the game a couple of times and have yet to successfully complete it. I've done some good things about reducing emissions and providing enough food, water, and power for my citizens. But I've made enough unpopular decisions in the course that I've been voted out of office. It's a fine line to walk, and the game points out the difficulties of balancing policies that will make a real difference with the public reaction to those policies. It's been fun and educational and challenging. I can't say enough good things about it. I like this game, and you ought to go check it out!