Learning to Manage Climate Change Risks: Three New Multiparty Negotiation Games That Can be Used to Enhance Public Engagement

By on / Daily, Negotiation Skills, Pedagogy at PON, Research Projects

The Clearinghouse now offers three, multi-party role play simulations focused on helping cities manage climate change risks. These were prepared by the Science Impact Collaborative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the direction of Professor Larry Susskind. The purpose of these exercises is to engage the public in a mixture of political and technical conversations about the prospects of adapting to climate change. These are short “games” that take about one hour each to play. They are currently being tested in Massachusetts cities and appear to help residents broaden their perspectives and deepen their understanding of the ways in which possible climate change impacts ought to be incorporated into all local decisions about infrastructure planning, land use and resource management. These games give participants just enough information that they can play roles that are not their every day assignments. This ensures that the role play experience will afford participants a better understanding of how people with other views and responsibilities perceive the same issues from different perspectives.

The simulations are designed to ensure that certain conflicts arise, since various stakeholders in the game are encouraged to place different priorities on key short- and long- term goals and to value various kinds of technical analyses differently.  When the participants debrief the results of the simulation, they can reflect on the way in which the risks discussed in the game are likely to affect their own communities, imagining how and why they might respond to various risks, and what the prospects are of adapting to climate change. The games include detailed teaching and facilitation notes.

1. Water Use

This is a six-party, multi-issue negotiation involving environmental, economic, social and political interests in a city that has to make investment decisions in its water infrastructure.

The city of Evantown is not up to the task of coping with extreme water events like droughts that could become more frequent with climate change. The major source of water for the city and area businesses is the Foltz River, which has had extremely volatile fluctuations in levels over the last few years, including a major drought that forced the city to implement a water conservation initiative. The simulation imagines a critical meeting, convened by the Mayor, of five key stakeholders to consider three major decisions that will impact the future of the river – whether or not to increase water allocations that will benefit some community interests and not others, whether and how to invest in improving the efficiency of the water infrastructure, and whether and how to improve residential water efficiency. The game requires six players, and a large group can play the game at multiple tables of six.

2. Flooding

This is a seven-party, multi-issue negotiation involving environmental, economic, social and real estate development interests in a city struggling to promote redevelopment of its downtown in the face of serious flood risks. The exercise illustrates the need to consider both the short- and long- term impact of land-use decisions on the current and future economic wellbeing, human safety, and environmental health of the population in the face of serious climate change risks.

A developer is in the final stages of planning a multi-use development along side a river. New maps indicate increasing risk of flooding on and near the site. The exercise challenges participants to grapple with questions like whether to allow the development, how should the city take measures to protect itself against current and projected flood risks and who is responsible for paying for adaptation measures to protect vulnerable areas? The game requires seven players and two hours to play and debrief.

3. Heat Islands

This is a seven-party, integrative negotiation involving stakeholders worried about how to implement housing retrofits to reduce vulnerability to extreme heat in the aftermath of a deadly heat wave attributed to climate change.

The newly elected mayor has convened stakeholders to discuss questions like should city government bear all the cost or should private owners and landlords contribute, and what scale and pace of response is appropriate given the uncertainty of climate change and the high costs involved in protecting residents? The exercise challenges participants to find ways to package multiple issues so that different groups can secure their highest priorities while relaxing their demands in other areas. The exercise requires seven players.

Participants need no special technical training.  The games incorporate the results of scenario planning and risk assessments typical of the analyses that cities all over the world are currently preparing as part of their climate risk management efforts.

Written by Carrie O’Neil, taken from the bi-annual e-newsletter Negotiation Pedagogy at the Program on Negotiation E-Newsletter (NP@PON), which can be found here.

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