Breaking Through Developing Multidisciplinary Solutions to Global Grand Challenges

Climate Tipping Points


Manjana Milkoreit
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Brett Crawford
Assistant Professor of Technology Leadership and Innovation
Matthew Huber
Professor of EAPS
David R. Johnson
Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering and Political Science
Linda Prokopy
Professor of Natural Resources Social Science
Dominique van der Mensbrugghe
Research Professor of Agricultural Economics and Director of the Center for Global Trade Analysis (GTAP)
Jason Reed
Assistant Professor of Library Science

External Consultants

Joost Vervoot
Science Officer at Utrecht University and Oxford Environment Institute
David Farrell
Lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University

Project Summary

The team is engaging in a first-of-its-kind project that merges a creative knowledge co-production process between scientists and decision-makers on urgent questions in global climate change governance and a scientific assessment of the effectiveness of this science-policy interaction. They are developing a cutting-edge, technology supported engagement process around a serious game and will study the ensuing cognitive changes among participants as well as political dynamics following the engagement process.

“Gaming Climate Futures” engages global climate change negotiations to explore the relationship between global temperature targets, a hot topic in the recent Paris Agreement, and climate tipping points, an important but largely ignored set of governance challenges. Canvassing the specific knowledge needs and interests of the climate governance community, the research team will respond to these needs by synthesizing existing and new knowledge and creating an engagement strategy centered on an interactive serious game. This engagement process will provide political actors with opportunities to (a) deepen their understanding of the cost-impact trade-offs involved in pursuing various temperature goals, in particular with a view to the possibility of passing specific climate tipping points, and to (b) imagine the social-political, economic-technological and environmental futures their collective decisions could create.

Ultimately, the project seeks to inform participants’ political interests and negotiation goals with regard to the global temperature targets. In addition to engaging global policy makers, the team will study participants’ beliefs concerning the temperature target and measure the impact of the project’s activities on these beliefs. They will observe the long-term effects of the engagement process in the global climate negotiations. The project design provides timely support in the form of actionable knowledge for a fast-moving international negotiation process and make an important contribution to the literature on effective science-policy interactions. The latter is particularly important in the context of growing pressures on scientific communities to play a larger, more effective role in global policy responses to major sustainability challenges.

Gaming Climate Futures responds to current science-policy interface challenges and pursues three distinct objectives:

  1. Provide decision-making support for global political actors, enabling climate diplomats them to learn about and grapple with the relationship between global temperature goals (in particular 1.5°C) and climate tipping points.
  2. Leverage recent research on effective science-policy engagement strategies to design and conduct a knowledge co-production process centered on a serious game.
  3. Study the effectiveness of this engagement process by observing cognitive change among participants as well as long-term effects in the climate negotiations

Enabling climate negotiators to learn about the relationship between temperature goals and tipping points will require a major effort of knowledge gathering, integration, and synthesis, which can lead to independent scientific advances and potential publications on this particular topic. In addition, the project’s main scientific contributions concern the effects of serious gameplay on political beliefs, goals and behavior of participants, for example, the effect of an increased understanding of tipping points on the short-term political interests of representatives from small island states. Hence, the central research questions this project will answer are:

  • Research Question #1: What is the relationship between specific temperature goals and climate tipping points?
  • Research Question #2: What are the beliefs of study participants concerning the feasibility, desirability and logic of pursuing specific temperature goals, and how do these beliefs affect the success of the international climate regime?
  • Research Question #3. How does serious game play affect the learning and goal-related political interests of participants in the global climate negotiations?

Principal Investigator Bio

Manjana Milkoreit
Assistant Professor of Political Science

Dr. Milkoreit's research integrates international relations scholarship and cognitive theory to study actor motivations and policy design in global climate change politics and diplomacy. She is interested in governance challenges at the science-policy and science-society interfaces that impact the search for and implementation of sustainable solutions to climate change. These include the use of scientific knowledge in policy and governance decisions, the role of ideologies in advancing or preventing effective societal responses to climate change, and meaning-making processes related to the Anthropocene.

Two major topics dominate her current research agenda: the challenges of future thinking (scientifically informed imagination) in climate change policy and decision-making, and the design of effective review mechanisms under the Paris Agreement, which was concluded in December 2015.

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