Teach Climate

April 29, 2010
By: Kristen Poppleton, Senior Director of Programs

Integrating the "Behavioral Wedge"

Our newest Citizen Climate curriculum emphasizes civic engagement and helps teachers and students understand the critical and complex climate solutions being discussed on the national and international stage. In the curriculum we recommend playing the Stabilization Wedge Game, a game produced by Princeton University’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative . The goal of the game is to demonstrate that climate change is a problem which can be solved by implementing today’s technologies to reduce CO2 emissions. The game creators, Stephen Pacala and Robert H. Socolow, show that the difference between maintaining our increasing levels of CO2 and leveling out our emissions of CO2 in the next 50 years is approximately 200 billion tons of CO2, and if illustrated graphically is a triangle (see below from Carbon Mitigation Initiative, Princeton University ).

Wedges_Figure1_8 Wedges_Figure2_8
Click the above images for a larger view

The object of the game is to keep the next fifty years of CO2 emissions flat, using eight 25 billion ton wedges from a variety of different strategies which fit into the stabilization triangle. Students have the opportunity to select from a variety of different strategies categorized as efficiency and conservation, nuclear energy, fossil-fuel based strategies, and renewables and bio storage to fill their triangle with wedges. The game is a good exercise for thinking about all the factors that go into the decision making process, such as money, political will, public opinion etc. I have enjoyed using it with students, but have found it difficult sometime to engage them because the solutions are generally disconnected from daily life.

This week the Garrison Institutes’s Climate, Mind and Behavior Project , in cooperation with the Natural Resources Defense Council , came out with what they are calling informally the “Behavioral Wedge.” They show how the United States alone could reduce its CO2 emissions by 1 billion tons through easy and inexpensive actions. Actions include, carpooling twice a week or telecommuting once a week; washing clothes in cold water; and unplugging or shutting off electronics more often. The actions outlined in the report, are more relevant to the average student and citizen than those in the Stabilization Wedge Game, and could possibly be integrated into the game when playing with students as a follow up, or as an introduction to solutions they can implement themselves. Let us know how you used it in your classroom, and if we adapt it for our own use we will be sure to post it!

Fore more on the Stabilization Wedge Game

Fore more on the “Behavioral Wedge”