Climate-change committee submits community’s recommendations

Zuber seeks comments on report ahead of giving recommendations to Reif.


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Today, Vice President for Research Maria Zuber is releasing a report from a committee charged with engaging the MIT community on the issue of climate change. The report offers an expansive suite of ideas about how MIT can most productively contribute to solving the problem.

In releasing the report, Zuber is inviting comments on it via email (to climateconversation@mit.edu) from the MIT community over the next 30 days: This further input will help inform recommendations that will be presented to MIT President L. Rafael Reif this summer.

Today’s report caps a year’s work. In May 2014, Reif announced that he was asking Susan Solomon, the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences — named that day as the founding director of an Institute-wide environmental initiative — to work with Zuber, Provost Martin Schmidt, and MIT Energy Initiative Director Robert Armstrong (together with Solomon, the “Conversation Leadership”) to launch a campus-wide conversation on the challenge of climate change.

Toward that end, in September, Zuber announced the establishment of the MIT Climate Change Conversation Committee, which was charged with seeking broad input from the Institute community on how the U.S. and the world can most effectively address global climate change. That committee, which reported to the Conversation Leadership, was established with input from the members of the group Fossil Free MIT and the MIT Office of Sustainability.

The committee was asked to work with the MIT community to explore pathways to effective climate mitigation, including how the MIT community — through education, research, and campus engagement — might constructively move the global and national agendas forward. The committee was assigned to produce a final report to be delivered to the Conversation Leadership. The report was to list, in unranked order, key suggestions with associated pros and cons that encompassed the range of views of the community.

The Conversation Leadership will carefully review the report, as well as any further input from members of the MIT community, before presenting recommendations to Reif. In the fall, Reif will announce a plan for community-wide MIT action on climate change.

Since its establishment, the committee has engaged the MIT community in a number of ways. From January to May of this year, five events were held, including a lecture about the urgency of climate change by MIT alumnus (and former White House advisor and Goldman Sachs partner) Larry Linden; a panel discussion about the difficulties around communicating with the public about climate change; and a debate about the call for MIT to divest from fossil fuels. In April and May, a listening tour comprising six sessions in locations across campus was conducted. And since November, the committee has hosted an idea bank devoted to climate change, which has seen participation from nearly 600 members of the MIT community, including students, faculty, and alumni.

In an email to the community today, Zuber thanked the committee for its work. “By tackling this important assignment with energy, imagination and seriousness, [the committee members] delivered to our community an exceptionally constructive and illuminating process for exploring the most effective strategies for climate action,” Zuber said. “In the best MIT tradition of clear-eyed problem-solving, their thoughtful groundwork enabled the MIT community to address this urgent, complex and highly charged subject in a way that left us all better informed and better prepared to act.”


Topics: Community, Administration, Climate change, President L. Rafael Reif, Sustainability, Environment

Comments

I realize that this is essentially a done deal, but I will nevertheless register my disapproval of the Climate Institute and the addition of climate change courses as core requirements.
The Climate Institute is essentially a donation magnet, which means that it will be eternal,and will inevitably become politicized. If its purpose were strictly to develop new energy technologies I would support it - this is a proper function of an institution such as MIT. MIT has largely avoided politicization, and because of that is regarded as an honest broker. I fear this will undo that.
For much the same reason I do not support the inclusion of mandatory climate change classes at the undergraduate level. I have long felt that the elimination of 8.03, 8.04, and 18.02 as core requirements was a mistake because they forced students to develop quantitative and logical thinking of basic but important concepts where there were right answers and wrong answers. Climate science, on the other hand, is an extremely complex subject dependent largely on models that have proven time and again to be inaccurate. Will mandatory gender studies or gun control issues be next?

To sum up, increased emphasis and availability of additional courses on technology solutions to world energy production would be welcome and appropriate; mandatory courses and increased politicization of the Institute are not.

You whizz right by the fact that there has been no warming in 18 years using un-homogenized data including satellite data that is more comprehensive and doesn't guess at Arctic temperatures. You also ignore the fact that the climate models failed to predict this and are rendered useless. Where does this match the theory? Why are you talking about mitigation when there is no scientific reason to?
Listen to Professor Richard Lindzen for a change.

Keep the climate change discussion to an analysis of the data and out of politics. There are some who believe the sun is a major factor. There is data that suggests a cooling trend over the last ten years. The truth is there are very few long term trends we understand nor can we predict them. A look at weather forecasting shows the weather forecasters have trouble getting it right one day in advance much less than 3, 5 , or 7 days. Some forecasts one week ahead are off by as much as 10 degrees low or high.

While I think we should push renewables and I have both a solar array and a Plugin Prius the idea that we can replace fossil fuel in a few years is ridiculous. A sensible approach to climate change and appropriate actions will get us much further along to reasonable solutions than the political agenda currently being pursued by the UN and the current administration.

Keep it strictly scientific and avoid the fear campaign of the so called scientists who change their data and try to restrict differing opinions from the published research.

The climate has been changing for millions and rising temperatures coming out of a little ice age is not exactly a surprise. That big orange thing in the sky also has an effect on the temperature as do volcanoes.

Keep in mind also that man does not get to decide what the normal climate is and if change is good or bad.

Remember the old acronym. PPPPPP or P**6. Building a city 10 feet below sea level and then building dikes to protect it is arrogance, not planning. Same as building on the Clearwater peninsula with an high of 6' above sea level.

Building on flood plains, below sea level, and on the edges of the oceans based on climate 100 years ago and now is not totally rational. The oceans have risen and fallen in the past and will continue to do so whatever man does.

Scientists should be spending their time looking to mitigate what effect climate change will have on those making bad decisions years ago rather than trying to blame man for the tiny effect he has. One nice volcano will instantly undo years of man-made savings and there is nothing we can do about it.

Thank you @pennsyltuckian:disqus @lenlindenmeyer:disqus @Jmac0013:disqus @TomFromVa:disqus. I echo these comments.

The classical method of a thought experiment is appropriate. Ignore the facts of our current situation, and suppose 2 givens: 1) through natural variation the climate were changing (volcanoes, sun, changing magnetic fields, a new super CO2 emitting bacterium, whatever); and 2) the same state of industrialization existed (thought experiment, remember! Maybe an encroaching ice age (a fear in the 60's/70's)). What would be the response? I posit that the rational among us would a) scour the technological toolbox for a1) a highly reliable understanding of the projected environmental, hence economic, impacts; a2) the most economical solution over time AFTER we firmly understand the effects of both the change and the solution, and finally b) also debate whether the natural change should even BE mitigated (it is natural after all). We probably would NOT jump to the anti-industrialization approach many currently suggest. As a PhD econometrician and energy trader for 19 years (I am agnostic about the source, the hard, cold economics are what matter) I have yet to see an end-to-end, full effects, "green" solution that is net positively beneficial. True sustainability without (significant, long-term*) sacrifice of living standards is obviously good. I think we will achieve net positive impacts soon, but I think as an economist we should slow implementation and subsidies, and bank those current resources and money and concentrate on further research and development. Every subsidy dollar (aka resources and environmental impacts) wasted on Tesla's and uneconomic solar panels in Germany or Seattle is a DOUBLE whamy - we could have spent it on R&D and it is one dollar of impacts MORE we will have to mitigate and reverse in the future. We move backwards based on emotional, not rational, response.

*Inter-generational equity, and whether we over-utilized our generation's (or our parents did?) share of the planet is a separate debate which should also happen. Given the knee-jerk intransigence I hear from near and current pensioners and SocSec recipients, I fear people's sense of equity, however. I am willing to sacrifice some of my retirement for my children and grandchildren, but many do not see it that way.

What is presently labeled Climate Science by the media is a
mixture of hysteria, unstated assumptions, fudged data, political
motives, and a child like belief in crude climate computer models
which cannot predict present climate from past data. MIT, to
preserve its reputation, should avoid any connection with this pseudo
science disaster. There is however a place for real climate science
which MIT could pioneer. Here are some questions worth studying:
1)
What is the optimum earth temperature? Warmer increases plant
production. Colder in the past has led to mass starvation. How can we
move toward an identified optimum?
2) What is the optimum
atmospheric CO2 concentration? Higher than now increases food and
fiber production and reduces plant water consumption. Too high could
be a heating hazard. What are the limits of available CO2 values?
3)
If the optimum CO2 level exceeds the pre fossil fuel level how could
we keep it up when fossil fuel eventually becomes uneconomic?
4)
The Greenland and Antarctic ice core records suggests that when the
earth warms about 2C above its present level an ice age commences.
What is the mechanism? Ice age cycles are essentially a relaxation
oscillation triggered by orbital variations. What is the memory
mechanism which switches to go from warming to cooling at some upper
temperature limit and switches back to warming when global
temperatures drop to a lower limit? Is it the Arctic Ocean's ice
cover and salinity? It melts with warming; evaporation, snow fall,
and salinity increase to build ice shields and inhibit refreezing
and; cooling gets severe enough to refreeze a saltier Arctic Ocean
and shut down excess northern precipitation.
5) Low lying atolls,
wetlands, sand islands, and river deltas are low lying because the
land level responds to water level to keep the land a little above
sea level. There are many cases where human activity has defeated the
natural land building processes to cause flooding. How can human
activities be redesigned to avoid it?
6) Since plate tectonics
pushed up the Tibetan plateau 65 million years ago ice ages and
glaciation have been the norm with briefer warm periods in between.
How much more time does the present warm period have? If it ends what
can we do to mitigate glaciation?
7) What is the total human
activity influence on climate? Studies need to be done on contrail
induced clouds, roof and paving color, winter plant color,
agricultural winter land treatment, and emissions.
8) What is the
real cost and benefit of present climate modification efforts? Using
tax money to subsidize the purchase of cars which get 3 miles per
pound of coal is an example.

All of this needs much better understanding of climate and huge
improvements in computer modeling. There is a lot of good science
which has been done to accumulate a wealth of data and more real
climate science which needs to be done and that is what MIT should
take a lead in. It should have no connection with hyped, politicized
pseudo science. Supposed science studies with predetermined outcomes,
faked data, silencing opposing views, and hysterical pronouncements
have no place in the MIT I graduated from.

What is presently labeled Climate Science by the media is a
mixture of hysteria, unstated assumptions, fudged data, political
motives, and a child like belief in crude climate computer models
which cannot predict present climate from past data. MIT, to preserve
its reputation, should avoid any connection with this pseudo science
disaster. There is however a place for real climate science which MIT
could pioneer. Here are some questions worth studying:
1) What is
the optimum earth temperature? Warmer increases plant production.
Colder in the past has led to mass starvation. How can we move toward
an identified optimum?
2) What is the optimum atmospheric CO2
concentration? Higher than now increases food and fiber production
and reduces plant water consumption. Too high could be a heating
hazard. What are the limits of available CO2 values?
3) If the
optimum CO2 level exceeds the pre fossil fuel level how could we keep
it up when fossil fuel eventually becomes uneconomic?
4) The
Greenland and Antarctic ice core records suggests that when the earth
warms about 2C above its present level an ice age commences. What is
the mechanism? Ice age cycles are essentially a relaxation
oscillation triggered by orbital variations. What is the memory
mechanism which switches to go from warming to cooling at some upper
temperature limit and switches back to warming when global
temperatures drop to a lower limit? Is it the Arctic Ocean's ice
cover and salinity? It melts with warming; evaporation, snow fall,
and salinity increase to build ice shields and inhibit refreezing
and; cooling gets severe enough to refreeze a saltier Arctic Ocean
and shut down excess northern precipitation.
5) Low lying atolls,
wetlands, sand islands, and river deltas are low lying because the
land level responds to water level to keep the land a little above
sea level. There are many cases where human activity has defeated the
natural land building processes to cause flooding. How can human
activities be redesigned to avoid it?
6) Since plate tectonics
pushed up the Tibetan plateau 65 million years ago ice ages and
glaciation have been the norm with briefer warm periods in between.
How much more time does the present warm period have? If it ends what
can we do to mitigate glaciation?
7) What is the total human
activity influence on climate? Studies need to be done on contrail
induced clouds, roof and paving color, winter plant color,
agricultural winter land treatment, and emissions.
8) What is the
real cost and benefit of present climate modification efforts? Using
tax money to subsidize the purchase of cars which get 3 miles per
pound of coal for example.

All of this needs much better understanding of climate and huge
improvements in computer modeling. There is a lot of good science
which has been done to accumulate a wealth of data and more real
climate science which needs to be done and that is what MIT should
take a lead in. It should have no connection with hyped, politicized
pseudo science. Supposed science studies with predetermined outcomes,
faked data, silencing opposing views, and hysterical pronouncements
have no place in the MIT I graduated from.

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