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Intentional hope found through a global climate perspective: The 2021 APRU Student Global Climate Change Simulation

By Allie Long

Prior to the start of her master’s program this fall, Carole Green was excited to be one of nine University of Washington students selected by faculty and staff from the Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE) and the College of the Environment to participate in the 2021 APRU Student Global Climate Change Simulation. “I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of human health and climate change, which is why I decided to pursue an MPH at UW and have been thrilled to learn from the experts at CHanGE,” shared Carole. 

Although the APRU simulation was specifically focused on climate change, students came from a variety of backgrounds. Take Siddharth Sheth, for example. A second year graduate student at UW for computer science, his personal interest in climate change fueled an opportunity to participate and build professional growth related to integrating environmentalism into his future work.

“No one’s really talking about the environmental impacts of the computer science industry, even though data centers rely on electricity to keep us all connected to complex virtual worlds,” explained Siddharth. “It might seem like an indirect relationship, but that’s exactly why awareness is key. This experience was an engaging way to learn more about clean energy policy, which I want to scale in actionable ways within my field once I graduate this December.”

Interdisciplinary teamwork

Carole and Siddharth were two of the 120 students from 13 universities across 10 countries who virtually attended the APRU Simulation. 

Hosted by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) between August 11th and September 2nd, the simulation held mock negotiations for students across the globe to play the role of delegates to the UN Climate Change Negotiations. Students were placed into multidisciplinary teams to represent one of six regions, which included the U.S., China, India, the EU, “Other Developed Countries” and “Other Developing Countries.”

“During the simulation, I was part of the Green China group, where we focused on how land use changes, the Paris agreement and greenhouse gas emissions have historically impacted this country,” shared Siddharth. “It was really fun to learn how to communicate about a different country’s environmental representation on a global scale. It gave me a new perspective on why universal environmental guidelines can’t always apply to every country because of the different local implementations and regulations based on your assigned country.”

Global connection & mentorship

The simulation was created in tandem with climate policy simulation models including EN-ROADS and World Climate Interactive that were initially developed by MIT. The program included ten plenary speakers from organizations such as the UN Habitat Programme, Adidas and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, among others.

Over the course of three sessions, students also participated in interactive breakout sessions led by 16 international climate science experts. 

“The climate change simulation was an excellent opportunity for students to understand some of the complexities of negotiating across countries, realizing the challenges with reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to less than 2.0C above preindustrial,” said Kristie Ebi, CHanGE founder and professor, who was one of the participating APRU experts.

The scope and magnitude of the simulation gave way to a lot of shared moments for the students that highlighted how important and complex it can be to come to global agreements within climate change policy. 

“We are thrilled to support global programming that connects UW students with their international peers and equips them with practical skills in a global context,” shared Office of Global Affairs Vice Provost Jeffrey Riedinger. This office was a co-funder for the selected UW students to attend the global simulation as part of their passion for fostering cross-disciplinary and intercultural learning opportunities. “The APRU Global Climate Change Simulation creates an innovative learning environment, focused on finding solutions for some of the most pressing challenges facing our shared world,” said Jeffrey.

Simulation takeaways

For Carole, the simulation’s takeaways included a surprising feeling: hope. “What the public so often hears about climate change is how we’re all going to go up in flames, and it makes people shut down. I didn’t anticipate how hopeful climate experts actually are. There is a way for us to solve this problem. It’s challenging to recognize its grandiosity, but so many people care. We just have to be very intentional in the ways that we tackle this together.”

This simulation was co-organized by University of Oregon and University of Southern California, and it included students from Monash University, Nanyang Technological University, Peking University, Tecnológico de Monterrey, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, The University of Auckland, The University of Melbourne, Tohoku University, Universidad San Francisco De Quito, Universiti Malaya and University of Washington.

Special thanks to EarthLab and the UW Office of Global Affairs for funding the UW students who were able to attend.