In this video, MIT alum Travis Franck talks about his experience at Climate Interactive and how his background in engineering has helped him in in the world of climate policy.
As a Program Director at Climate Interactive, Travis has helped businesses and organizations predict whether their climate action measures will be enough to achieve their climate goal.
Furthermore, Travis discusses the Climate-Smart Agriculture program he is working on in Africa, to support those worst hit by climate change, looking at how agricultural policies can be changed to improve production and emissions.
Travis also explains their role play simulation, World Climate, where individuals model global treaty negotiations, which are then entered into the climate model to discover how impactful their negotiations were.
[00:00:01:00] My name is Travis Franck. I am a program director at a nonprofit called Climate Interactive. And we do a lot of work to reach government leaders, citizens, and businesses to communicate and have them experience climate change policies.
[00:00:16:12] My background is in engineering systems and complex system modeling. And I've taken those skills into the policy world and applied them in this NGO climate interactive to build complex but real-time interactive models of climate policy and climate action
[00:00:36:16] You get a lot more credibility when you walk into a room, even a policy room, with an MIT technical background than you do, possibly, coming from a policy world into a technical room. So I think coming in that direction-- I'm going from a technical background and trying to apply it to policy-- is actually maybe an easier and more credible way.
[00:01:01:06] We at Climate Interactive started engaging with policymakers prior to the Copenhagen Climate Conference-- so this was around 2007-- and started talking with lead negotiators from around the world, delegates to the UNFCCC, and asked them, well, what would it take to achieve 2 degrees, their agreed-upon goal. And many of them didn't know. And so what we decided-- and we saw a need to create a policy tool, a climate model, that would be relevant for them.
[00:01:37:18] Climate Interactive developed the C-ROADS climate simulator-- stands for climate rapid overview and decision support simulator-- and this model added up the pledges in the language of the negotiators-- so we could take the text of their document and type it into the computer, effectively-- and tell them whether or not they could achieve 2 degrees.
[00:02:03:27] We've had a lot of articles in the Washington Post and the Associated Press and the New York Times around, what does it mean to have a Trump presidency? What are the effects on climate change? And because we can run our climate scenarios very quickly, a lot of what-ifs-- What if the United States simply pulled back its Clean Power Plan initiatives? What if the United States turned out to be sort of a leader in the rollback of climate pledges? And what if the rest of the world ended up following sort of a-- less of a 2-degree pathway?
[00:02:41:24] And so we were able to really quickly run those what-if scenarios. And we framed them very carefully as these different possibles, extremes. You know, what if the rest of the world started rolling back? What if this happened, what if that? We don't know. But because we were able to do a rigorous analysis, qualify but rigorous analysis stating our assumptions up front, rapidly, we were able to work with journalists to help frame the discussion around all of the important kind of reactions that were happening in December-- or in November and December after the election.
[00:03:19:13] Our Climate Smart Agriculture modeling project in Africa is really important because Africans are the most vulnerable to climate change, and yet-- so will feel the impacts of all the change. And so much of their economies in Africa are based on agricultural production. So we have a lot of smallholder farmers. So we're doing the modeling project in which we're looking at the impacts of climate change and how agricultural policies could change to improve production, reduce carbon emissions, and also improve the resilience of farmers in 2050 in a warmer world.
[00:03:57:24] One of the ways we really do make an impact in the world is actually by having people experience climate change and the climate negotiations for themselves. And we think this is really important. And one of the reasons we do real-time modeling at Climate Interactive is because people need to experience the system in order to understand it better and to learn and make better decisions.
[00:04:21:14] One way that people can experience climate change and the climate negotiations is by running through a role-play simulation that we call World Climate. And World Climate is freely available on Climate Interactive's website. And what happens is, people walk into a room with no knowledge of climate change. They can be experts, they can not be experts. We've run this from K through 12 up to CEOs and government leaders. And the room is divided into country groups. You-- this table, become China. This table, become Africa. This table, become the EU.
[00:04:56:10] And we give them briefings, tell them to read, and all of a sudden they become UN negotiators, just like you would have at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. And they negotiate a global treaty. We give them the charge of staying below 2 degrees Celsius, or even better, closer to 1.5. And they'd do their hardest to negotiate a global treaty.
[00:05:19:05] At the end of a round of negotiations, we take their negotiated positions and enter them into our climate model. And we take the discussion that's happened and all the horse trading that's going on in the room and the passionate speeches and people getting really excited and angry at one another, and we ground it back into the science, the scientifically reviewed model. And we say, you know, for all of that discussion, you only achieved 3.3 degrees. You only lowered temperatures about 1 degree Celsius. That's not good enough. Go back and do it again. And then people start negotiating and trading.
[00:05:53:06] And we've had people being excited, and some really good moments and when groups do it, but there's often a lot of frustration. And sometimes, people cry. And it's just kind of all over the board. But you get people engaged with the scientific materials, because we talk about why action now is important as opposed to waiting. You get people emotionally engaged. They understand a little bit about the international climate geopolitics of the situation. And it's just a really rich experience.
[00:06:26:15] I'm particularly excited and I feel I've had a really good day when I've had conversations with people where I know they've had aha moments, where I know they walked into the room and had a mental model in which they thought, the climate system works like this. By talking with them, really listening to them, having them engage with me, but also with our simulators, with our computer models, in which we test their ideas in front of them, and then they challenge our models because the results aren't what they expected. And then they ask about our assumptions. And then we talk about the underlying view of the world. And I can see their mental model shift.