Simulating Climate Change

Global climate change is a huge topic, and one of the factors that feeds the continuing public debate on climate change has been the huge, cumbersome models scientists have been using to project climate outcomes.  While no form of environmental risk analysis is simple, climate change simulations can be Byzantine.  The inputs are myriad and dynamic, the computations take eons, and it takes a specialist to divine the implications of the simulation results. All of which hampers policy makers, who are tasked with decision making under uncertainty–under uncertainty, that is, to the nth.

Enter C-ROADS, a new tool developed in a joint effort by the Sustainability Institute, Ventana Systems, and MIT. C-ROADS–Climate Rapid Overview and Decision Support Simulator–has been designed with decision makers in mind.  It is essentially a sensitivity analysis tool, and unlike many garden variety simulations, such as those for risk analysis, its goal is not a set of precise numbers but trends that would result in response to changes in scenario.  For instance, what would it take for the U.S. to reduce its fossil fuel emissions 80 percent by 2050?  And what if all countries stuck to their current emissions commitments?

What is new here is not the questions or the use of simulation to answer them but the speed and user-friendliness of the new simulator.  It runs in a tenth of a second on a laptop, and it can be used by the uninitiated–me, for instance.  This tool is bound to help more of us participate in the discussion on this big, earthshaking topic.

It’s fast, easy. And it’s free. C-ROADS will soon be available as freeware on the web. Keep your eye on

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