Image source: David Lima Cohen (creative commons)
In an adventure role-play video-game, each player explores a whole world interacting with different characters and objects using simple rules; where the general objective is to go from one world-state to another: catch’em all, survive the apocalypse, conquer the throne, and so on.
Now imagine that we have a video-game where the characters are all the components of the climate system and their rules of interaction are based on physics. Then, the result of playing this video-game for a while would represent the actual behavior of the climate… or the behavior that the player wanted to reach.
3D Game (Youtube Account: Selim Tezel’s Project Based Learning Initiative in Mathematics)
So, if this climate video-game represents the climate, how does it differs from the current climate models?
The great difference relies in the way they are constructed. Climate models are sets of governing equations that describe the variables of interest like temperature or precipitation. On the other hand, our video-game pre-sets the characteristics and rules of the single components (or video-game characters) like solar rays, green-house gas molecules, clouds and more, so when they start to explore the world and interacting with each other, they will construct, one by one, the climate. This is called the emergent behavior.
The video-game doesn’t have any equation that describes the temperature or precipitation, rather will be their individual components that will give place to the dynamics of these variables.
The experimental nature of the video-game provides an affordable and less risky alternative than experimenting with climate in enclosed laboratories (See Biosphere II). It is also more understandable and easy to use than the classical climate models. In this sense, this approach represents the kind of tools that are actually needed in the current international climate negotiations, so decision-makers would be able to see and understand the implications of the climate agreements and the energy and economic structures in which their countries are developing.
In a more academic jargon, the ‘video-game’ described above is an agent-based model or simulation, and even-though the perfect and complete simulation does not yet exist, there has been great progress in this area in recent years.
Here you can see a video of an agent-based simulation I did about the climate in the Arctic. If you want to read more about it, you can download here the complete article.