When it hits store shelves November 15, SimCity Societies, the latest installment of one of the most popular, long-lived PC games in history (and the only game to which I’ve ever been truly addicted), will include global warming variables in the many factors it uses to model how players plan, build, grow and manage successful cities. When picking what sort of power plants to build, for example, players have to choose between coal plants that are cheap to build and run, but that boost pollution and lower the happiness of local residents. As game-time progresses, rising CO2 levels boost the threat of droughts, heat waves and other natural disasters. Real-world oil-giant BP sponsored the global warming aspects of the game, so any green energy infrastructure that you choose to build shows up with BP’s yellow-green sunflower logo. Coal plants do not. The game makes real — er, unreal — the sort of trade offs today’s policy makers are facing. Reading this development made me recall how much I used to enjoy building a city in this game, then wrecking it with an earthquake, fires, a giant reptile or simple mismanagement. As in all things, better to learn the consequences of our mistakes through simulation than reality. Let’s hope this version of global warming works the same way.
BusinessWeek correspondents John Carey and Mark Scott, cover the green scene, keeping on top of the business aspects of energy, the environment and climate change, as well as the technologies, policies, markets and people that are shaping how the earth's resources will be used in the century ahead.