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Sun Valley Forum to Explore the Use of Gaming to Impact Climate Change
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Wednesday, May 31, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Aimee Christensen has been chipping away at climate change and ecosystem degradation for more than three decades—both as a policy maker in Washington, D.C., and as the founder of the Sun Valley Forum. She negotiated the first U.S. agreement on climate change, with Costa Rica in 1994, set up a western hemisphere-wide cooperation on clean energy that same year, guided Google to go carbon neutral in 2007 and founded the Sun Valley Institute for Resilience in 2015 to help this community find ways to address climate change. That led to such programs as  Solarize Blaine, which led to a five-fold increase in solar in 2016 over the previous year, and the Impact Idaho Fund, a groundbreaking model funding community resilience.

She’s back at it June 20-23 as the eighth Sun Valley Forum brings together global climate leaders and innovators to The Argyros in Ketchum. This year’s conference is titled “The Multiplier Effect: Partnering to Accelerate Climate Solutions.”

“This time, we’re doing a really cool session around gaming—how we can use games to help three billion people have access to climate solutions and other information,” said Christensen, who presides over the Ketchum-based sustainability advisory firm Christensen Global. “The guy who developed the game Call of Duty, which is the world’s best-selling video game franchise, will be with us and he’ll invite the public to try virtual reality to experience gaming for learning.”

Indeed, The Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, which is working toward a goal of reaching a billion people with climate resilience solutions by 2030, will bring together gaming executives, developers, storytellers and philanthropists to advance gaming as a tool to reach gamers with climate solutions.

One of them—Dutch game video designer Henk Rogers--produced Japan’s first major role-playing video game The Black Onxy. He also secured the rights to distribute the Tetris puzzle video game on video game consoles.

He co-founded Blue Planet Alliance, which led the campaign to make Hawaii the first state with a 100 percent renewable energy law.  And his Blue Planet Energy is one of the leading providers of batteries to power homes and businesses.

“Every day, more than 3 billion people play video games worldwide. This reach allows us to meet people where they are, in virtual spaces they already engage with, and equip them with new knowledge and actionable skills to survive and thrive in the face of climate change,” said Kathy Baughman McLeod, director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Resilience Center at the Atlantic Council. “We look forward to sharing and learning at our first Sun Valley Forum.”

Other speakers include Lisa Friedman, climate reporter for the New York Times; Jeff Goodell, contributor to Rolling Stone Magazine and author of several books addressing such things as rising ocean levels; Peter Horton, who starred in “thirtysomething,” produced “Grey’s Anatony” and brought “New Amsterdam” to the TV screen; Leslie Kaufman, climate reporter for Bloomberg; Matthew Mead, founder of Hempitecture; Jens Nielsen, founder of World Climate Foundation; Lewis Perkins, president of Apparel Impact Institute; Bill Weir, chief climate correspondent for CNN, and Brady Pinero Walkinshaw, CEO of Earth Alliance and former Washington State legislator.

Also, Kathleen Simpson, chief executive officer of The Russell Family Foundation. She transitioned the foundation’s investment portfolio from 7 percent to 95 percent impact-aligned as the foundation commits to Net Zero by 2030.

The forum will also have Multiplier Effect working sessions to help accelerate specific initiatives by leveraging knowledge and resources.

Scientists just warned that the world is entering a sixth mass extinction event with half the planet’s species experiencing rapid population declines as wild landscapes give way to farms, roads and cities and climate changes habitats. And the world is fast approaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit that the scientific community has identified as the point at which the world will start to see increasingly dangerous impacts of climate change.

Christensen admits that she faces the reality check of how fast climate change is happening and how it’s impacting Idaho and the world. But she remains optimistic.

She points to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in March noted that there are multiple feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change already available.

“There’s some really good news, which is that the federal government is investing a lot of resources and helping to accelerate solutions for climate change with support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and Inflation Reduction Act,” she said. “ Not only are the federal government resources unprecedented in the amount, but I’m excited about the thoughtfulness with which they’re being deployed to Native American communities and communities that are at risk from the impacts of climate change.”

While there is a sense of urgency, we do have solutions, she said. In 2022, ninety percent of the new energy that came online was renewable. Ninety-three percent of India’s new energy was renewable.

“We need to go big and fast with these climate solutions, and we’re finally seeing it happen, thanks to innovation and cost reductions and investments by federal government,” she said. “And we have more investors wanting to invest in climate solutions.”

That’s why Christensen persists in bringing together what she calls “a community of doers.”

“The people who come to the Sun Valley Forum are the people with the solutions, the people who are making the investments, the philanthropists who are providing grants to help protect the most vulnerable from the impacts of climate change. And we always have a number of local folks coming and learning—people who are being part of the solution.”

To learn more, visit https://www.sunvalleyforum.com/.


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