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Climate Challenge

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Rating: 4.6/5 (62 votes)
Comments (48) | Views (11,378)

NoahClimate ChallengeDeveloped by Red Redemption and funded by the BBC, the Flash-based Climate Challenge is a thoroughly researched, compelling resource-management sim. As the "President of the European Nations" you must radically reduce your people's carbon emissions over the course of a century, while remaining popular enough to stay in office.

Sound dry? It's not. Climate Change is as fast-paced and challenging as it is thought-provoking and open-ended, and the excellent tutorial and in-game help make picking it up a breeze. The game lasts ten turns, each spanning a decade between 2000 and 2100. A turn consists of selecting up to 5 policy cards, each of which will use up or add certain resources; 'Import Food', for instance, will add food but cost euros and energy while emitting CO2. 'Require Energy Efficient Appliances' will cost euros but add energy and reduce CO2. Pursuing certain policies can unlock further cards such as space travel or planting large forest growth. As in Will Wright's Sim City, disasters can strike, draining your resources unexpectedly and forcing you to choose between a very expensive, unpopular policy or an expensive, very unpopular policy.

Periodically, you will meet with other world leaders at the Climate Change Summit and vote on setting new global emissions limits. If they don't feel that Europe is doing enough, they will be less inclined to reduce their own emissions and you will have to subsidize them, an expensive way to buy votes. Your long-term goal is to reduce your CO2 emissions to the target levels agreed upon by the global community, but you must also keep your electorate happy. Every policy has an approval rating and, if enough citizens are unhappy with your performance, you will be booted from office, ending the game. Between turns, a newspaper page provides feedback on your progress and public opinion, another appealing Sim City reference.

Climate Change is without a doubt one of the most successful serious games I've come across yet. While obviously not a crash course on the hard science behind climate change, Red Redemption has certainly met their stated goals, being to:

  • give an understanding of some of the causes of climate change, particularly those related to carbon dioxide emissions.
  • give players an awareness of some of the policy options available to governments.
  • give a sense of the challenges facing international climate change negotiators.

Climate Change accomplishes all of the above while remaining sufficiently game-like to be fun and avoiding the pitfalls of over-simplification, condescension and boredom that plague many similar efforts.

Play Climate Challenge

A wealth of additional information is available here for those interested in digging a little deeper into the science behind the game, and an interview with Red Redemption has recently been published over at Gamasutra.


Actually quite a good game. It gets its message across without beating you over the head. I found it was actually quite easy to get my carbon-emissions in line (I played as Europe), but at the expense of my economy. Actually, I didn't know I was doing bad until the end of the game. I figured I would be unpopular if the economy tanked, but it wasn't the case.

Headed back to play again. I'm curious if the difficulty of the game changes at all depending on which region I try to control...


I played with the goal of decreasing emisions and staying popular... and the economy suffered for it. I wonder if there is a way to succeed well at all three.

I noticed while playing that there were some options that your really did not want to choose, such as building a coal fired power plant. I think the game was effective at getting its point across.


Nice little simulation. Same as mikey, I ended up highly popular and with great emissions reduction, but apparently the economy tanked in the process. Kinda odd, because you don't get any indication that the economy is suffering throughout the game...


Oh, btw mikey: You always play the European nations; the choice of avatar is purely cosmetic.


i don't understand how to keep the economy up. i tried to balance spending with taxes/ exports, and kept my euro bar at maximum - it would't let me add any more to it, and at the end it still said the economy was in ruins. what am i missing here?


Did anyone tried out the space program ? Its real expensive but I wonder does it got any beneficial returns ?


thanks valarauka, realized that when i played the second time. same result (a little better on the economy the second time) even though i tried to be a bit more "financially" balanced. perhaps the message isn't so great if the ultimate result is a horrible economy, high inflation, no jobs, and general anarchy. kinda makes you wonder if it would actually be worth cutting down emissions (disclaimer: no my personal view) hmm, on second thought, maybe the game needs a little tweaking to make the message more effective.


same as others.. popular, low emissions, but economy in ruins. But it was a fun game.


Its a nice game. simple and informative. But just made me feel getting a balance definately not easy.
By the way, does anyone invest in space program ?


Maybe that's the point - save the environment at the expense of the economy - sounds like more of the old conservative/big-oil argument against environmentalists...


I think that may be the point, that it's extremely hard to balance all three.

Oh... and I was impeached in 2070.

Apparently, no one appreciates a 250% decrease in pollution.


I tried the space program; it leads to mine the moon, then colonize it, then go to mars - but all of those were resource hogs with pretty much zero benefit as far as I could see, so I didn't pursue it further.

Joe Nobody February 2, 2007 4:25 PM

Amusing, but tragic simulation.
100% popularity but "You left the economy in ruins. Hyper-inflation and joblessness are endemic across Europe. People are starving and crime and lawlessness have taken hold. Extremists have become more influential and threaten to undo any good you did during your presidency."
That's just absurd. Needs massive rework on the scoring algorithms.


The economy part just doesn't make sense - the game gives no indication about how you're supposed to boost the economy; and it doesn't seem to affect anything else.

I just tried the whole going to mars thing; as far as I could see it's a huge resource sink, and all it does is boost popularity. Also - I declined to set emissions targets for the last two meetings, let them skyrocket in the last 30 years and still ended up with a 76% environment score - only 12% less than what I got last time, when I ended the game with nearly zero emissions.


You can check how good the economy is doing by left-clicking on the money bar.


nice game
i will try to have a good economy now that i know about the left clicking
but i did my best in my third game, i polluted a lot the earth and then went to mars =) it was fun!


I think this game is very flawed. I find no correlation between the amount of funds you have and the health of the economy. I managed to get the space program and go to Mars and I still managed a 68 on the environment. I raised taxes to the max and still managed a 77 popularity. Wealth hit 4 but I wasn't short funds. Also interesting to note that I didn't agree to any emissions reductions nor did I meet any targets and I still managed a 68.

I think the "resource" goal includes energy, food and water. When I played the game with getting 0 emmisions, I reached that goal, but I did notice that food and water levels were low relative to money and energy - it could be the total package that counts and that's where the strength of the economy lies. But, a healthy euro balance would lead me to believe that your ecomomy is strong. But what do I know...


i don't know about the economy- except for a few dips earlier on i kept a constant increase in funds, and it still only gave me a 15% rating! i also found myself consistently voting against the un resolution to reduce carbon asn i found it too restrictive. rather, i tried to reduce carbon emissions whenever i could. it still gives you a decent environmental rating.


Clicking on the bars just shows a trend graph of how much cash you have available - but as far as we've seen that doesn't necessarily correlate with how good the game thinks your economy is.

The last time I played, I went for the space program, raised taxes and increased the retirement age all the way, and still ended up with 76% env, 100% popularity - but 0 economy score. That's messed up...


I just got voted out of office with env %52, WEALTH %44, and pop %0.

I had encouraged business grants and investments, privatized electricity and water, and hosted the Olympic games. My CO2 bar looked horrible during the game, even though I got %52 as a final score. I bribed North America, and always voted for reduced emissions. Some of this probably got me the higher econ score.
"You ran a stable economy during your presidency. Although it wasn't remarkable, it did allow you to keep inflation and joblessness under control, enabling you to concentrate more on climate change."


@Valarauka: You want to have as much resources at the end of the game. Having low food, water, and electricity will kill your Economy score.


Results: Enviro: 90%
Wealth: 7%
Popularity: 40% (I had just done some more Enviro stuff last turn)


@RedKlonoa: I'm not sure that's all there is to it - I played again and ended up with absolutely massive amounts of food, water and electricity (advanced fusion plants, advanced water treatment AND desalination, high intesnity farming + GM crops, largescale rainwater collection) and still had a single-digit economy score...


@ Valarauka - I think economy has more to do with money than with any of the other resources.

As for my scores...
Environment: 88%
Wealth: 3%
Popularity: 83%

They all loved me even though I made them poor! :)

bigorangedot February 2, 2007 11:17 PM

It's definitely a nice way to highlight the issues, but they really need to get away from this whole saving the environment at the expense of the economy idea. It's a misconception that we need to break free from. In fact it's just the opposite. Of course, despite the scores at the end, it's easy to see that you can meet the environmental goals and still end with strong resources. Anyway it was fun being president of the EU for over 100 years!


I found this one before Jayisgames! I also actually liked it quite a lot and got into a cyclical thing of looking after enivronment, then economy, then popularity, then repeat - learned some things.

Remember it isn't trying to preach a solution its trying to get you to think about it.

Would be a VERY good high school game.


I had:
Environment 88%
Wealth 7%
Popularity 100% (Awesome no?)

I was fighting having little food/water over the entire game. I think that I never supported medium or high intensity farming...
Also, I funded my efforts by researching fusion power, and then selling it (unfortunately, I ran out of "sell more power" cards before the end of the game - I think I should be able to sell as much as I want!).


I don't understand how to avoid getting short on food in a "good" way? Either you need to import it, or else you need to support high intensive farming. I think there should be more options regarding the food.

Anyway, I'm usually happy about the score. The first time I didn't know about the graph behind the economy, but this time I got 88% Environment, 29% Wealth and 60% Popularity. I think the trick with popularity is

to make sure you have the same amount of popular and unpopular decicions in each turn, and not to worry to be a bit unpopular as long as it doesn't get below 50%. Governments are always a bit unpopular, aren't they?


This is the best score I gotten so far
Environment 82 Wealth 18 Popularity 93
I only got 18 despite the fact my wealth graph is positive growing at the rate of nearly y = x rate.
I really wonder getting high scores of all 3 is possible or not ?

Jeremy Henderson February 3, 2007 12:25 PM

Well, I lost the election after two turns, but I managed to get my Wealth score up to 46%, with an Environment score of 51%. Unfortunately it resulted in a 0% popularity (people really were not happy with me raising the retirement age, despite the fact that I lowered taxes during the same period; INGRATES!).


impeached in 2050, stupid food shortages... and that dumb john smith!!!

Evilwumpus February 4, 2007 8:02 AM

For some reason, you always start each turn with decreasing food and water. It's as if your population spontaneously increases every turn. Also, every option for getting more food and water requires CO2 emissions. Evidently, although I have fuel-cell, hybrid, and electric vehicles, I still need fossil fuels to power my farms.


Good fun and manages to get its points across. Good game. I had it so 100% of the country's had a 100% chance to agree for about 3 turns. Easy in some parts but by the end of the game i was running out of cards. I was acaully asked to reduce my emmisions to 0.


I love these kinds of "serious" sim games (Cost of Life has been my favorite game for some time), and I enjoyed this for the most part, but I agree that it was almost impossible to keep water and food at decent levels without seriously harming the environment. I had great emmissions and great popularity every round until the last one, when in order to meet the new lowered standard I basically had to choose every unpopular option that would lower emmissions, so people ended up hating me.

I did learn a lot, though, and it was cool to see the balance between what people wanted and what they *really* wanted.


I'm thinking, if you manage to keep the last round with positive profit (money), then you might be able to get your wealth higher at the end. Haven't tried it but guess it would work.


now we can really see why you SHOULDNT be in charge of the world.

but do you know how to get good enconomy? i finished with 12% even though i had alot of money...

but it was really hard to get water and food...

pro environment so there is no end!


as said the "wealth" aspect is maybe broken in this scenario.

Go and try to play PRO ECONOMY all the time! The you will see that wealth is even much lower at the end of 21th century!!!!

Joe Nobody February 5, 2007 12:52 PM

Fuzzygrid: You're right. I went hardcore pro-economy, ignore-the-environment and ended up with 0% wealth and 44% environment! The wealth simulation is completely broken.


or the message is, the economy will brake either way, but it will at least be better if we go pro environment.



4% or so economy at the end.
Because I had almost no food or water.

Plenty of electricity though!


Finally achieved decent wealth.

82% Environment, 38% Wealth, 83% Popularity.

"A true economic master, you considered Europes (sic) finances whenever you chose policies."

How to get a good wealth score?

The trick is to make sure you don't overspend. Obvious, I know. I think there is some kind of interest calculation so try to spend as little as you can in the first few years. Tax as much as you can. Make sure your money grows every year by clicking on it and checking the graph.

Other tips?

Money is the only thing worth stockpiling. There is no point having too much food or water or energy. But make sure you don't go below zero or you will have to deal with disasters. Keep the environment good to stay clear of disasters too, such as heatwaves.
Try and keep your popularity hovering around 50%. Taxes and increases in pensions are unpopular, so balance them with CHEAP popularity tactics - use the spin card, and some of the low cost but popular policies (e.g. subsidizing hybrid cars).


andi, wow I didn't think it was possible to finish 2100 with a good wealth.

when I get it correctly for the game "Money in the hand of governemt" equals to "wealth of the economy"?

What I learned in economics 101 was just the opposite :-)


Ha. I skipped Econ 101. Anyway, here's what the developers had to say:

Dear Andi,

Many thanks for your email.

The Wealth score has a few issues in the current release of the game. It was never the central mechanic of the game as the primary focus was on CO2 and Energy. During development one of our advisors was consulting on the Stern report which looked at the economics of climate change, and we had hoped to build some of the results of that into the game.

Unfortunately the timings were a bit out and Climate Challenge went into testing before the Stern Report came out.

We are currently revising the economic model data for the next game. Essentially it should have read: "During the course of your presidency, a combination of your policies and environmental caused your Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to increase/decrease by X%" with the percentages being between +5% for excellent results and -30% for terrible results.

Nick Stern actually calculated that addressing climate change now would cost 1%-2% of GDP, however ignoring it would cause a catastrophic fall of 20%.

I hope that answers your query.

Sorry it took me a few days to get back to you.

Kind Regards,
Gobion Rowlands
Climate Challenge Producer


This game is great, its good to finally see some awarness being spread about global warming

Jim Ryan April 21, 2007 9:10 PM

Hey Andi, do we know when the next edition of the game's coming out? I like to play this game, but ending every session with the set-up of a William Gibson novel every time just starts to get to you after a while...


I spent the entire game thinking that the only goal was to lower the Co2 emissions. (It is called Climate Challenge...)

I ended up with 100% on the environment and 10% on the economy.

Does anyone know if its possible to get a 0 in anything?

I guess balance is the key to it all. *Sigh*


the highest wealth score i got was 51% but i got 45% environment and i wasnt popular at all.

HelmanDaniel April 3, 2015 4:50 PM

I've just finished playing the lovely online game Climate Challenge and can't wait to play again. I did pretty well. As the president of the European Union, my policies left the economy in shambles, but met several CO2 emissions targets. I wasn't voted out of office, either. The policies were very popular, and included things like funding trains, increasing the retirement age, exporting alternative energy technology and other things that I'd actually do in real life, if I were somehow magically transported into office.

Here are a few observations about my playing.

(1) The user interface and gameplay are easy and bright.

(2) It's a sim game and I thought the game choices were good, as someone who's been involved with sustainaibility for more than two decades. (Sim games are simulations, where system parameters are set by the players.) I drew upon my experience to decide what policies to implement, and didn't pay much attention to the public opinion data within the game, for example, in deciding what to fund during the play.

(3) It's a very, very good introduction into how constrained politicians are in what they can choose to fund or promote. It's also a very, very good introduction into looking at those choices through the lens of combating climate change. I found it inspiring. I loved the fact that all other countries were likely to try for CO2 emissions targets once the EU (under my leadership) did. I loved funding fusion energy and hydrogen research and providing subsidies for fuel cells in the home.

(4) Climate Challenge would work well in a classroom setting, either individually or in teams. There's no way to play head-to-head, so there would have to be a separate way to compare gameplay. The game was written at the level of college students, but it's not inappropriate for middle or high schoolers.

(5) Climate change games just aren't sexy. I don't know why. I don't know what would make them better. Maybe it's because they are brainy. Maybe we have to do a better job of tricking people into playing. Admittedly, I wasn't thrilled with the game until I'd played a few minutes.

I can see why some people, e.g. Jane McGonigal in her bright TED talk, thinks that games will save the world, and that globally we ought to be increasing the time we spend game-playing sevenfold (McGonigal, 2010). Note that I had fun playing, learned something, and imagine that my skills at setting policy are top-notch. Never mind that the real world may not think so. The point is, I think, to build up peoples' confidence in their own abilities. And games do that.

Imagine a world wherein kids leave school universally believing in themselves and their own abilities. In pedagogy, we constrain the schoolwork a bit so that kids can be successful in a process of building successively harder challenges, called scaffolding. If a lesson is well-planned, success should be a given.

And now, with the advent of alternative reality games and wikiswarms, for example, the chance is here (White, 2011). Game designers really can create progressive challenges that will impact the world and humanity for the better—while being matched to present user abilities.

It's true, technology is a double-edged sword. Humanity is definitely in for a crisis with climate change, one that may end civilization with catastrophic disruptions to agriculture and ecosystems. But don't forget the sword's other edge, technology. We are poised to do things communally that have never been dreamt of before. People are connected now so easily. Let's not miss this opportunity to win.


McGonigal, Jane. (2010). Gaming can make a better world. TED2010. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world/transcript?language=en

White, Micah. (2011). From killcap to wikiswarms. Adbusters. Retrieved from https://www.adbusters.org/magazine/98/wikiswarms.html


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