Simulated Climate Solutions: Using the EN-ROADS Simulator in Lessons


The teaching of climate education has undergone a change in recent years. We’ve seen a broad move away from the simplistic ‘for and against’ debates at global scale which characterized early discussions, and even some exam specifications and online resources. From the early stages of improving our understanding of the science and issues (Knight & Adger, 2015; Knight et al. 2021) and resources available (Rackley, 2019), we are increasingly seeing climate education in Geography classrooms as a synoptic and decision-making activity at the local scale (Hicks, 2019; Barton & Noyes, 2022). It is a core part of a wider sustainability strategy (DfE, 2022a), but the focus is often on the  ‘causes and impact of climate change’ (DfE, 2022a: Action Area 1), while sustainability and solutions are more loosely defined.

Research indicates that policy makers, school leaders and Geography teachers need to recognise the interests of staff and young people alike (Dunlop et al., 2022). Rather than focusing solely on the ‘net zero’ policy agenda and economic concerns (Dunlop & Rushton, 2022), it is important that we support young people to engage with decision making and participation at different scales.

Doing this is difficult. The global and regional variance in climate impacts is hugely complex, and we often have limited options for engaging with methods of solving climate change beyond analysis of the existing frameworks of the UNFCCC or COP mechanisms which are potentially policy-heavy. Teachers may be wary of discussions which breach political impartiality (DfE, 2022b), and seek more engaging methods of bringing the debates around the approach to solving climate change in to their classroom.

Here, we’ll look at the EN-ROADS Simulator as an opportunity to explore potential solution pathways at a range of scales with greater confidence and data. The model will be briefly described, and then we’ll explore ways that it might be practically used in the classroom to provoke meaningful debate about multi-scale approaches to solving climate change.

What is the EN-ROADS Simulator?

EN-ROADS is an evidence-informed, browser-based simulator for climate change solutions. It focuses on how changes in global GDP, energy efficiency, technological innovation, and carbon price influence carbon emissions, global temperature, and other factors (Chikofsky et al., 2022).

It is designed to provide a synthesis of the best available science on climate solutions and put it at the fingertips of non-specialist users through education, policy workshops and roleplaying games. These experiences enable people to explore the long-term climate impacts of global policy and investment decisions.

It is accessed via a web browser address (, which allows free and simple access for any user. No registration, payment or particular software is required, making it ideal for use in schools with potential firewall or restrictions on installed software. The relatively simple interface conceals a rigorous and extensive evidence-informed platform of synthesis and data, with over 400 pages of referencing and standardization analysis available to support interested users (Siegel et al., 2022).

Accessing & Using the Simulator:

On access, the default setting of the simulator is ‘business as usual’, showing the global distribution of primary energy and the impact on global temperature trends. Figure 1 shows an example of what you would see on logging in.

Underneath the main output, you see eighteen different ‘sliders’ which represent actions that could be taken to bring about social, economic and environmental change. For each, you can move the slider using the mouse, or find further details and mechanics of the individual solution. You can also see related graphs which directly connect to the changes that occur from moving an individual slider. A drop down menu enables further control and insight in to this process. Any slider movement represents a decision to deviate from ‘business as usual’ scenarios, and the impacts are then observable through the output graphs.

There are over 100 different output graphs available in EN-ROADS. They show data from different parts of the global energy and climate system, and they update as you move sliders within EN-ROADS.

Figure 2 shows the options for adjusting the graph display, and are linked to different related themes and outputs.

Graph Guides  (Chikofsky et al., 2022)

A. Select graphs – When you first open En-ROADS, you see the two default graphs. You can select from the full list of graphs by clicking the title of the left or right graph. You can also select from the Graphs menu in the top toolbar.

B. More info – For more information about a graph and what it shows, select the triangle icon to the left of the graph title.

C. Copy graph data – Copy the graph data to your clipboard by clicking on the three dots to the right of the graph title and selecting “Copy Data to Clipboard.” You can paste this data into a spreadsheet program such as Excel.

D. Shortcut to popular graphs – You can quickly jump to a selection of the most commonly used graphs from the “Show miniature graphs” icon on the top toolbar. You can click any of these miniature graphs to switch to that graph in the main graph view.

E. View larger graphs – If you want to expand one of the graphs to be larger or into a separate window, you can access this by clicking on the three dots to the right of the graph title and select “View Larger” or “View in New Window.” You can access the “Large Left Graph” or “Large Right Graph” feature from the View menu in the top toolbar.

After the energy distribution and global temperature default, the most popular option for an overview of impacts are the Kaya Graphs (Figure 3), which reflect the variables of the equation below created by Yoichi Kaya:

Global Population × GDP per Capita × Energy Intensity of GDP × Carbon Intensity of Energy = CO2 Emissions from Energy

They depict the drivers of growth in carbon dioxide emissions from energy, which reflects about two thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions (Chikofsky et al., 2022). To access the Kaya Graphs view, click on the “View” menu bar item and then “Kaya Graphs.”

How can you teach with this?

So, how can you make use of this simulator and resource to support learning and decision making with your students about the solutions to climate change?

Teacher use as a data set

The first option is simply to use it yourself as a resource to be regularly referred to in your classroom. The simulator can be used as a displayed resource at the front of the classroom to model potential solutions, or to show the potential impacts of decisions as part of a teacher-led discussion and exploratory sequence.

This is, perhaps, where the ‘behind the scenes’ details may be most significantly deployed. The directive nature of teacher-led work allows you to alternate between different outputs and views – from the standard to the Kaya graphs, or to the specific details – and to drill deeper in to some of the specific mechanisms, costs or details that underpin the outcomes of variance.

For example, Figure 4 shows a sample of some of the detailed thinking behind the carbon pricing mechanism ‘lever’. It allows a more advanced group – perhaps an A Level class – to explore specific processes, market mechanisms, and the high-level thinking behind the lever. A teacher-led discussion could explore specific decisions or unpick some of the more complex mechanics for students who understand and explore Economics, or give further exemplification of specific policies from a GCSE Energy unit, or an Economic World discussion.

The depth and structural thinking that sit behind the simulator are ideally suited to teacher resource use, but perhaps more powerful structures result from student engagement and decision making about what sliders to change.

Decision Making Exercise – Short Activity

For a quick engagement with the simulator, it is likely that a whole class activity is most suitable as a decision-making exercise. Ideally, at the end of a sequence of learning looking at climate impacts and potential solutions, students can explore their ability to make quick decisions. The key outcomes are to understand the relative impacts of different decisions, and to be able to briefly evaluate a sense of comparison and success.

Example Quick Activity:

You’re at the end of the scheme of learning looking at climate solutions, or perhaps as an extra-curricular activity at a lunch time club. You want to get students thinking about the cost-benefit of the solutions available, and discussing and debating the different options.

Bring the climate simulator up on to the screen, and briefly show them how the sliders work – and the impact of one of them on the temperature. The target is for each group to come up with some solutions to get the temperature as low as possible. You can then give them a number of sliders to play with. It would be reasonable to allow them to pick ten sliders to change, but a more challenging level of activity would be to give them five sliders. The aim is for each group to pick the five/ten sliders and decision that will give the greatest impact on temperature outcomes.

Allow the groups to work for a suitable time (5-10 minutes is normally more than adequate) and then you can run the room to manage the outputs. You can get each group to come and present on the simulator, for example, and record their temperature outcomes on the board. You can manage the competition and rewards in line with your school’s policy if you choose!

For this kind of activity, the key is to focus on the actions and the solution sliders. You may want to encourage groups to question each other, and think about the pragmatic or realistic consequences of making particular slider decisions, but each group is focusing on the relative effectiveness and ‘cost-benefit analysis’ of the slider and solutions, rather than how they interact.

Full Conference/Simulation-style Activity

The original intent of the EN-ROADS simulator is for more complex discussions and perspectives to be generated. Formal workshops ( aim to replicate negotiation scenarios – simulating the Conference of the Parties, or similar international roundtable discussions. The simulations and workshops are intended to explore the impact of sliders, but to add a role-play element where negotiation and understanding perspective are just as critical for success. You may choose to contextualise the experience through the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties timelines ( to show the actions that have already been taken.

For the workshop, groups are assigned roles to play: perhaps as countries, or as international bodies or non-governmental organisations. Instead of the singular goal for temperature, the objective is for the collective group to succeed through negotiation to the optimal outcome. You can choose to brief people in advance, or present the briefing materials as part of the conference workshop.

Doing this requires more set up and long-term development of resources, together with coherent discussions and classroom management, and likely more time than a regular lesson would permit. It works well for a drop-down day activity, or perhaps a conference or external day that overlaps with a Model UN extra-curricular group.

Resources are available to support the deployment of this activity (see references) which help teachers to build their confidence with leadership of the climate simulation and discussion of impacts. The resources are also excellent for understanding some of the wider teaching of climate change, even if you don’t intend to use the simulator!


Increasingly, teachers want to build their confidence with discussions of solutions to climate change. Here, the EN-ROADS simulator has been presented as a potential option to improve the evidence basis for solution-focused work in the classroom. The browser-based approach offers free and easily accessible engagement with expertly-curated and rigorously tested simulation models, and enable students and teachers to explore different outcomes and solutions to climate change with confidence and optimism.

Three approaches to solution-focused work have been explored: showing the range of ways in which the simulator and the accompanying resources and materials can be effectively used with students. Whether directly as a teacher resource, or in workshop or quick access form, the simulator and website resources offer an excellent bank of information and resources for schools and teachers to access.

We recommend that you try to make time to explore the website as an individual teacher, or perhaps even consider in a Department or Faculty meeting how the simulator and resources can be effectively incorporated in to a curriculum or sequence of learning. Further learning through the workshop resources can provide free professional development for teachers (or interested older students), and the learning platform enables certification and a formal training programme to be access for free by those with time and interest to do so.

The simulator offers mechanisms by which we can start to build hope for solutions in students. Understanding the options, and what impact they might have for the future of the planet is a way to address some of the concerns being raised by students (Dunlop et al., 2022) with a strong platform of evidence. It offers deeper insight in to global negotiations which can be hard to unpick from the outside, and optimism that good decisions can make real difference.


Barton & Noyes (2022) COP26: You choose – climate change, Teaching Geography 47 (1), 8-10

Chikofsky et al. (2022) EN-ROADS User Guide, available online at:

Climate Interactive: Simulation Resources available online:

Department for Education (2022a) Sustainability and Climate Change: A Strategy for the Education and Children’s Services Systems, accessed online at: , October 2022

Department for Education (2022b) Political Impartiality in Schools, guidance note published online at:, accessed October 2022

Dunlop & Rushton (2022) Putting climate change at the heart of education: Is England’s strategy a placebo for policy?

Dunlop et al. (2022) Teacher and youth priorities for education for environmental sustainability: a co-created manifesto, British Educational Research Journal, 48 (5), 952-973

Hicks (2019) Climate change: bringing the pieces together, Teaching Geography, 44 (1), 20-23

Knight & Adger (2015) Climate Change – Emerging Scientific Issues, Teaching Geography, 40 (3)

Knight et al. (2021) Weather and Climate: A Teacher’s Guide, Royal Meteorological Society: Reading (available online:, accessed October 2022)

Rackley (2019) Resources to teach the changing nature of climate and energy, Teaching Geography, 44 (2), 62-65

Siegel et al (2022) EN-ROADS Simulator Reference Guide, available online at:


1 thought on “Simulated Climate Solutions: Using the EN-ROADS Simulator in Lessons

  1. Pingback: A Busy Teacher’s Guide to the IPCC AR6 Release |

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