The UN has gamified the search for climate solutions

5 Maret 2020

What happens if you ask 20 million people about action on climate change? The UNDP decided to give it a try with its largest-ever mass survey online.

The UN agency’s Mission 1.5 project was created with a few purposes in mind. Built as an online survey, it also lets players learn about climate measures in six sectors while the site collects information that will be presented to governments so they can improve national climate efforts.

The campaign is designed around an Internet and mobile-based video game that allows people to offer up their solutions for climate issues.

“One of the things that has been really important to us about Mission 1.5 is to really ensure that we can reach as many people as possible,” says Cassie Flynn, a UNDP climate change advisor. “What we know that this is a huge industry, and how do we use that industry to tackle one of the biggest problems in the world?”

From the start, you get a feel for joining a global phenomenon. Seeing over 12 million choices already made by others makes you want to contribute your share. You get to choose between playing a game and taking a survey. The survey doesn’t limit the number of options, while the game allows you to choose from three options.

Should we conserve forests, protect wildlife or buy illegal timber? Do we keep the ocean healthy, promote eco-friendly tourism or keep dumping waste? What is the difference between helping workers transition to clean sectors and investing in green businesses and jobs? 

The game doesn’t provide any details on why particular options matter more than others. However, users are graded on their good and bad choices. As a result, they can learn that doing away with fossil fuels matters as much as improving product transparency, while community education is at odds with the development of new infrastructure. 

The logic of assigning the same scores to options that significantly differ by their contribution to climate targets remains, however, unknown. Yet people are not really allowed to voice their solutions; instead, they can choose from a range of available options.

The good part is that your answers actually make a difference, allowing you to land below or above the 1.5C warming threshold. The bad part is that the creators could have provided more in-depth insights on the impacts of concrete actions and the game would also benefit from more logic behind the numbers and a more accurate representation of relevant topics.

The UNDP’s goal is to reach as many people as possible but that comes at the cost of any depth or genuine learning opportunity. With many far more insightful and well-implemented projects like Your Planet Your Plan out there, the game adds little to the gamification of the globally significant issues.

Despite its flaws, dedicated marketing of the game may boost public understanding of climate issues and facilitate the collection of helpful information. However, to inspire effective climate action, organizations like the UNDP could invest more effort into the quality of solutions they promote.

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