Global Sustainability Crossroads: A Participatory Simulation Game to Educate in the Energy and Sustainability Challenges of the 21st Century
2.1. Methodological Background and Novelty
- FISHBANKS: The original version was created in 1986. Multiplayer simulation game in which participants play the role of fishermen and seek to maximize their net worth as they compete against other players and deal with variations in fish stocks and their catch ;
- LA Water Game: Educational simulation game that teaches the management of aging water infrastructures in the city of Los Angeles (USA) ;
- World Climate: This game provides an interactive role-play experience through which participants take on the roles of delegates to the UN climate negotiations and are challenged to create an agreement that meets international climate goals. Their decisions are entered in the C-ROADS model, which provides immediate feedback about expected global climate impacts, enabling them to learn about climate change while experiencing the social dynamics of negotiations [49,50] (Lucas et al.,  propose a similar game although without applying a model);
- World Energy: A climate and energy role-playing negotiation game that promotes understanding of the causes of World Climate Change and the factors that could mitigate it using the EN-ROADS model as a basis. The main objective of the game is to reach agreement between the different parties to limit climate change and ensure that the global average temperature rise in the year 2100 is less than 2 ⁰C .
2.2. Description of the “Global Sustainability Crossroads” Game
2.3. Description of the “Global Sustainability Crossroads” Graphical Interface
- Transition to renewables: generation of renewable energy, extraction of non-renewable energies, share of renewables in the energy mix, remaining potential of renewable energy sources.
- Climate dynamics: GHG emissions, CO2 equivalent (CO2e) concentrations, temperature change, eventual occurrence of climate tipping points.
- Implications: Land requirements for renewables, share of blue water use vs accessible runoff water, gross domestic product per capita (GDPpc), mineral availability, energy return on energy investment (EROI) of the system, total final energy intensity, physical energy intensity.
- Feedback and limits to growth: Annual energy losses due to climate change impacts, variation in energy requirements to compensate for EROI variation, final energy availability, GDPpc (Figure 3).
3. Discussion of Insights from Game Performance
3.1. Pedagogical Capacity
3.1.1. Understanding the Global Sustainability Crisis and Framing Potential Solutions
- The importance of the challenge that climate change represents to human societies over the next decades/centuries.
- The identification of economic growth as the main current driver of environmental degradation.
- The fact that climate change and fossil fuel depletion are interrelated issues: energy transition to be performed in a context of declining availability and quality of fossil fuel resources.
- The need of a global fast transition to renewable energy systems.
- The (negative) implications of the transition to renewables: (1) hindering of the EROI of the system, i.e., reducing the net energy delivered to society, and (2) intensification of the competition for other natural resources (land, materials, etc.).
- The assessment that technological changes are necessary, but not sufficient, and must therefore be complemented by significant behavioral, cultural and social changes.
- The existence of trade-offs in the transition to sustainability due to the incommensurability of the different dimensions it is made up of: environmental (e.g., climate mitigation, land-use, and water), economic (monetary investments, welfare, etc.), social (e.g., inequality). Hence, the transition to sustainability will require ethical and even philosophical choices.
- The difficulty of policy-making in a context of uncertainty (e.g., hypotheses of the game and climate tipping points).
- The fact that economic activities and demand are limited by biophysical constraints.
- Why the policy targets have not been reached? (interaction of the aforementioned time scarcity with biophysical constraints such as climate change impacts and availability of energy resources);
- How is it possible that while emissions are decreasing temperature still increases? (dynamics of accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere, inertias);
- A new set of technologies will emerge in a few years and solve all problems (aforementioned dynamics of delays and inertias for new technologies);
- Why a faster growth of renewables implies a lower efficiency of the system? (feedback of the EROI of the system, lower net energy available to the society);
- Why if the temperature increase reached in this simulation is lower than the previous one, now we have surpassed a climate tipping point and not before? (probabilistic assessment, “low” probability catastrophic phenomena);
- It is impossible to find a scenario without collapse in this game! (wrong, the participants were not able to identify the actual leverage points of the system).
3.1.2. Capacity to Bridge the Gap Between Science and Society
3.1.3. Promote Discussion on Social Choices
3.2. Reflections on the Game and Further Improvements
- Introduce flexibility in the game in order to allow the players to check/modify decisions during each simulation.
- Improve the socio-affective dimension of the dynamic. The simulations often show results which challenge the participants’ earlier notions of how future may evolve. Hence, the game can generate conflicts (cognitive, values, etc.), both at personal and interpersonal level. Strategies for the proper management of these differences by the facilitators should be refined in order to channel them towards new cognitive syntheses leading to change and transformation processes .
- MEDEAS-World is a model under development: regularly update the game. Important dimensions are still not included in the game, such as the social (e.g., well-being and inequality).
- Apply participatory multi-criteria analysis to help participants to select the most favorable set of policies/attain objectives, dealing with the trade-offs in the transition to sustainability due to the incommensurability of the different dimensions of which it is made up: environmental (e.g., climate mitigation, land-use, and water), economic (monetary investments, welfare, etc.), social (e.g., inequality and gender) (e.g., ).
Conflicts of Interest
Appendix A. Modelling Framework of MEDEAS-World Model
- Economy and population: the global economy in MEDEAS is modelled assuming non-clearing markets (i.e., not forcing general equilibrium), demand-led growth and complementarity instead of perfect substitutability. Hence, production is determined by final demand and economic structure, combined with supply-side constraints such as energy availability. The economic structure is captured by the adaptation and dynamic integration of global WIOD input-output tables, resulting in 35 industries and 4 institutional sectors . Final energy intensities by sector are obtained by combining information from the WIOD environmental accounts  and the IEA Balances (2018). Population evolves exogenously as defined by the user. See  for more details on this sub-module.
- Energy availability: this module includes the potential and availability of renewable and non-renewable energy resources, taking into account biophysical and temporal constraints. In particular, the availability of non-renewable energy resources depends on both stock and flow constraints [103,104,105]. In total, 25 energy sources and technologies, and 5 final fuels are considered (electricity, heat, solids, gases, and liquids), with large technological disaggregation. The intermittency of RES is considered in the framework, computing endogenous levels of overcapacities, storage and overgrids, depending on the penetration of variable RES technologies. This sub-module is mainly based on the previous model WoLiM . Transportation is modelled in great detail, differentiating between different types of vehicles for households, as well as freight and passenger inland transport (see  for details).
- Energy infrastructures and EROI: This module represents power plants to generate electricity and heat, allowing planning and construction delays to be considered. A net energy approach is applied  endogenously and dynamically accounting for the EROI of both individual technologies and the EROI of the system. The demand of energy is affected by the variation of the EROI of the system.
- Materials: materials are required by the economy, with emphasis on those required for the construction and O&M of alternative energy technologies . Recycling policies are available.
- Land-use: this module currently mainly accounts for the land requirements of the RES energies.
- Water: this module allows calculating water use by type (blue, green and gray) by economic sector and for households.
- Climate: this module projects the climate change levels due to the GHG emissions generated by human societies (non-CO2 emissions are exogenously set, taking RCPs scenarios as reference ). The carbon and climate cycle is adapted from C-ROADS [109,110]. This module includes a damage function which translates increasing climate change levels into damages for the human systems .
- Social and environmental impacts: this module translates the “biophysical” results of the simulations into metrics related with social and environmental impacts. The objective of this module is to contextualize the implications for human societies in terms of well-being for each simulation.
Appendix B. Performed Game Workshops
|Event Number||Event||Date||Place||Number of Participants||Characterization of Participants (Level of Expertise/Age)||Type of Dynamic Performed|
|1||Club of Rome Summer Academy 1||9-9-2017||Florence (Italy)||~50||Experts and informed activists/all ages||Groups—1 session|
|2||IV Course of Ecological Economics 2||26-10-2017||University of the Basque Country, Faculty of Economics, Bilbao (Spain)||~10||Experts & informed activists/all ages||Groups—1 session|
|3||VII Congress of Ecologistas en Acción 3||7-12-2017||Valladolid (Spain)||~40||Informed activists/all ages||Groups—1 session|
|4||Classroom (Subject: Education for Peace and Equality)||6-3-2018||Faculty of Education of the University of Valladolid, Segovia (Spain)||~25||Students/18–19 years||Groups—1 session|
|5||Classroom (subject: Social Responsibility of Engineering)||2nd semester 2017–2018 course||Faculty of Industrial Engineering of the University of Valladolid (Spain)||~25||Students /4th year||Groups—5 sessions|
|6||Classroom (subject: Engineering and Society)||2nd semester 2017–2018 course||Faculty of Industrial Engineering of the University of Valladolid (Spain)||~25||Students /4th year||Groups—5 sessions|
|7||Classroom (subject: Engineering, Technology and Society)||2nd semester 2017–2018 course||Faculty of Industrial Engineering of the University of Valladolid (Spain)||~15||Students /4th year||Groups—5 sessions|
|8||“Playing to Manage the World” 4 (specific event)||20-3-2018||Valladolid (Spain)||~100||Heterogeneous/all ages||Assembly—1 session|
|9||15th Conference and Trade Fair of Green Building 5||19-5-2018||Aínsa, Huesca (Spain)||~45||Heterogeneous/all ages||Assembly—1 session|
|10||Classroom (subject: Modelling-Dynamics)||1st semester 2018–19 course||Factulty of Industrial Engineering of the University of Valladolid (Spain)||4||Students/4th year||Groups—3 sessions|
|11||V Course of Ecological Economics 6||23-11-2018||University of the Basque Country, Faculty of Economics, Bilbao (Spain)||~20||Heterogenous/all ages||Groups—1 session|
|12||II EnergÉtica cooperative Energy Meeting 7||24-11-2018||Burgos (Spain)||~15||Informed activists/all ages||Assembly—1 session|
|13||Classroom (Subject: Consumer behavior)||1st Semester 2018–19 course||Faculty of Commerce of the University of Valladolid (Spain)||~40||Students/2nd year||Groups—3 sessions|
|Total||Sept 2017–Dec 2018||Spain and Italy||~420||Heterogeneous/students/experts/informed activists/informed citizens/all ages||Groups—1 and 5 sessions, Assembly—1 session|
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|Final Energy Use|
|270||Annual average 1995-2008 final energy footprint of USA [36,61]|
|135||Annual average 1995-2008 final energy footprint of the EU [36,61]|
|75||HDI > 0.8 for a regression of 40 countries for timespan 1995–2009 [36,61]|
|30–40||The final energy to cover “basic needs” (adequate nourishment, electricity, water supply, sanitation and non-slum housing in urban areas) . This also roughly corresponds to a 0.7 < HDI < 0.8|
|~25–30||Eco-village Sieben Linden (Germany) |
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Capellán-Pérez, I.; Álvarez-Antelo, D.; Miguel, L.J. Global Sustainability Crossroads: A Participatory Simulation Game to Educate in the Energy and Sustainability Challenges of the 21st Century. Sustainability 2019, 11, 3672. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133672
Capellán-Pérez I, Álvarez-Antelo D, Miguel LJ. Global Sustainability Crossroads: A Participatory Simulation Game to Educate in the Energy and Sustainability Challenges of the 21st Century. Sustainability. 2019; 11(13):3672. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133672Chicago/Turabian Style
Capellán-Pérez, Iñigo, David Álvarez-Antelo, and Luis J. Miguel. 2019. "Global Sustainability Crossroads: A Participatory Simulation Game to Educate in the Energy and Sustainability Challenges of the 21st Century" Sustainability 11, no. 13: 3672. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133672