Climate change is already causing increased temperatures, more intense storms, and rising sea levels in many parts of the world. The threats, particularly the impacts on human health, are daunting. Despite uncertainties about the timing and severity of the impacts of climate change in each location, this simulation asserts that cities and towns must take action now. They can invest in new protective infrastructure, alter their land use regulations, encourage property owners to “climate proof” their homes and workplaces, enhance their emergency response capabilities and educate the public more extensively. Each strategy poses different costs and benefits and is likely to achieve very different results.
How to Handle the Public Health Impacts of Climate Change – Featured Negotiation Scenario
Written under the direction of Lawrence Susskind (Program on Negotiation Vice-Chair of Pedagogy), this new seven-party facilitated role-play allows participants to explore ways in which a hypothetical coastal community with good information in hand might reach agreement on how best to address the public health risks posed by climate change.
This role-play is appropriate for public agencies, academic environmental studies programs, undergraduate and graduate public policy and urban planning programs, and environmental advocacy groups. The simulation can be completed in less than 3 hours and includes an extensive Teaching Note with detailed instructions and debrief directions.
A recent article published in Nature Climate Change titled Role-Play Simulations for Climate Change Adaptation Education and Engagement provides “rigorous empirical evidence” showing how negotiation role-plays like How to Handle the Public Health Impacts of Climate Change can “enhance collaborative capacity,” “foster social learning” and increase the readiness of citizens and professionals to engage in climate change adaptation efforts.
How to Handle the Public Health Impacts of Climate Change
In this seven-party negotiation scenario, participants focus on climate issues likely to affect Mapleton, a high-density coastal city in New England where hotter summers, harsh winter storms, and increased flooding have already wreaked havoc on the city’s infrastructure. The city has initiated a multi-year climate change adaption effort, and has the results of a recent technical forecast indicating that Mapleton is particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures and intense storms, sparking concern among residents and public officials about increasing public health risks (including water-borne and air-borne diseases. Of particular focus are the city’s most vulnerable residents, especially the young, homeless, elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions.
Stakeholders from different parts of the community— including city officials, business representatives, and environmentalists — must decide how to address these public health risks. Not surprisingly, the problem of reaching agreement is as much a negotiation problem as it is a technical or economic problem.
In this negotiation scenario, the participants, representing the different stakeholders, come together to consider the short- and long-term impacts of climate change on public health, while evaluating the pros and cons of conflicting health risk management strategies. They are charged with formulating a strategy that can be supported by as many stakeholders as possible.
Participants in this role-play usually:
- Learn that stakeholders have competing interests and values that shape their views (regardless of what the scientific forecast says).
- Become more aware of public health risks when thinking about both the short-term and long-term risks posed by climate change.
- Clarify who ought to be responsible for managing public health risks and who should bear the costs — the residents, the private sector, local, state or federal government.
- Learn the importance of flexibility and ongoing monitoring as a means of adjusting to shifting circumstances.
- Construct “packages” of solutions that can meet multiple interests simultaneously.
How to Handle the Public Health Impacts of Climate Change is one of the many negotiation scenarios available through the TNRC that requires a facilitator. Facilitators can play valuable roles as referees, ensuring that parties follow ground rules and listen carefully to the concerns of others. The game materials are written in a way that role-play participants do not need to have any prior technical background or familiarity with the environmental, economic or public health aspects of climate change. The instructions for all the players are readily understandable.
TNRC: A go-to resource for more than 25 years
In addition to offering more than 200 negotiation scenarios and role-play simulations, the TNRC offers a wide range of other effective teaching materials, including:
TNRC materials are designed for educational purposes. They are used in college classroom settings or corporate training settings; used by mediators and facilitators seeking to introduce their clients to a process or issue; and used by individuals who want to enhance their negotiation skills and knowledge.
Negotiation scenarios and role-play simulations introduce participants to new negotiation and dispute resolution tools, techniques and strategies. Our videos, books, case studies, and periodicals are also a helpful way of introducing viewers to key concepts while addressing the theory and practice of negotiation and conflict management.
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Originally published in 2016.
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