MIT Sloan Executive Education Blog

Solving climate change with magic buckshot

During a recent webinar, MIT Sloan professor John Sterman used the current pandemic to highlight the similarities (and opportunities) shared with the ongoing threat of climate change.

In both instances, we’re dealing with scenarios that are invisible and have long time delays, which makes them difficult concepts for most individuals to grasp. We’re used to seeing and processing immediate cause and effect relationships. Many of us don’t stop to think about how our behaviors today may impact us (or the world) 5, 10, or even 20 years from now. We live in the moment.

Unfortunately, the moment we’re living in requires us to take action now – not just from an environmental perspective, but from economic and societal ones as well. Those aren’t conflicts of interest according to Sterman – rather they’re a fundamental alignment. You can’t have a healthy economy without a healthy environment or society – and vice versa.

So how do you go about building a sense of urgency to commit to and implement change? Research shows simply telling people the facts and explaining the science doesn’t work. As a result, Sterman co-developed En-ROADS, an interactive energy and economics simulator that allows individuals to learn for themselves and experiment with solutions. And solutions (plural) is key. En-ROADS quickly demonstrates there is no one magic silver bullet. Instead, it’s silver buckshot when it comes to finding climate change solutions. Participants quickly realize it’s possible to execute a variety of smaller actions – affordably – all while building new jobs along the way and improving people’s health. These aren’t trade-offs, but rather opportunities. Experiencing this first-hand through the simulation creates an emotional response within individuals that can then drive their actions in the real world.

Sterman, along with fellow MIT faculty from the Sustainability Initiative including Jason Jay, have been taking En-ROADS on the road – offering demos and using it as a teaching tool across government, non-government and commercial sectors. They teach and train individuals on En-ROADS in order for them to go back to their industry or community and further build a network that understands the issues. It’s a tool that can help educate and inspire real change.

And now we’re excited to announce that Sterman and Jay are bringing En-ROADS to their upcoming live online course, Strategies for Sustainable Business. Participants will be learning from the thought leaders and developers of this technology first-hand. The curriculum includes an opportunity to utilize the simulation tool through an in-depth and highly interactive role playing exercise where participants are pre-assigned different roles across industries, sectors, countries, and economic status. The goal is to have a better understanding of the various stakeholders and policies involved so participants can develop proposals, make presentations, and negotiate effectively.

The upcoming sustainability course is further enhanced by a new session on a cross-sectoral partnership working together to lower methane gas emissions to reduce climate impacts. Local speakers will provide a real-world example of the challenges and opportunities that come from collaboration between the utility companies and community organizers. It’s important for participants to understand the power of partnerships and which relationships they may have to foster in order to move forward on their own climate strategy.

The final day is devoted to building an action plan with valuable feedback and critique from the experts. How will you drive climate initiatives in your organization – or even your person life? What will you do to drive sustainability projects – and how? Sterman and Jay want participants to leave the course with a clear vision of what their next step will be when they return to work. Because as En-ROADS has taught us, it’s not too late to make a change, but we can’t wait any longer to take action.



Strategies for Sustainable Business
October 19-22, 2020

“This was my favorite course. No matter who you are, there are lots of great takeaways from this program. Professor Sterman and Professor Jay are highly engaging, and give lots of real world examples and science to show how sustainable practices are not only a necessary part of business moving forward for society as a whole, but also end up paying off financially as well. They teach methods to identify areas to leverage your strengths, mitigate risks, save money, and make money with simple changes to personal, societal, and environmental business impacts.” – Derek M., participant



Guest post by Elaine Santoyo Goldman

This entry was posted in on Fri Oct 09, 2020 by MIT Sloan Executive Education

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