Clim’ City Animates the Climate Challenge

clim_city2French science center Cap Sciences takes flash-based learning to new heights in a free online game launched this week: Clim’ City (click Le Jeu to play). At present this climate change adventure is for those of you who read French or set learning to do so as a New Year’s goal. But here’s to hoping that Bordeaux-based Cap Sciences gets an English version out quick because this educational game is a beautifully crafted and ingeniously programmed device for learning the contingencies and costs that lie ahead on the road to a low-carbon energy future.

The action in Clim’ City takes place on a small map of an imaginary town animated by commuters driving here and there and all manner of agricultural, industrial and even entertainment operations (including a ski hill) energetically going about their business. The goal is to reduce the “Clim’s” carbon footprint and thus avert the town’s demise by tweaking the way its actors produce and consume energy.

Playing such games turns information into knowledge. According to the international Association of Science-Technology Centers’s program International Action on Global Warming, the gamers at Cap Sciences hope players will do some informed pondering of such questions as:

Why is global climate change accelerating? What kind of climate can we expect by the year 2100? What human activities contribute most to the emission of greenhouse gases? And how is it possible to reduce these emissions?

In my first stab at Clim’ City I have converted the town’s carbon-belching coal-fired power plant to biomass. To do so I was forced to first launch a forest management program, which really brought home the fact that collecting biomass to generate a meaningful amount of energy is, in itself, a substantial and complex task.

My powerplant conversion also came with an opportunity cost, drawing down my limited supply of government, corporate, and individual action points. In the words of International Action on Climate Change, this was a powerful reminder of the “sociopolitical constraints” facing decision makers today.

I’m not deep enough in to Clim’ City to know whether mine is going to make it. If accounts in the French press and blogosphere are to be believed there’s a good chance it won’t. This is a tough game and failure appears likely — at least early on — which imparts a healthy dose of realism.

But even if the Clim’s get cooked under my leadership, I can’t help learning.

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This post was created for the Technology Review guest blog: Insights, opinions and analysis of the latest in emerging technologies

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