As the world responds to the historic international climate change agreement in Paris last December, an MIT laboratory is looking to engage thousands of people to help build successful national and global climate action plans.
The Climate CoLab has launched a set of contests seeking high-impact proposals on how people, organizations, and governments can tackle major climate change challenges. Entries can win prizes — including a $10,000 cash award and a chance to present at MIT — and also feed into larger climate action plans for countries and the whole world, which the community will build on the platform later this year.
“The mission of the Climate CoLab is to test how crowds and experts can work together to solve large, complex problems, like climate change,” says Thomas Malone, professor in the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence and founder of the Climate CoLab.
The initiative will operate in two stages. In the first stage, which opened today, anyone around the world can submit proposals for how to tackle these 10 major climate challenges. Each proposal will be evaluated by judges, as well as a team of emission modelers, who will estimate the impact the proposal would have on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Winners will be chosen in each contest.
In the second stage, opening later this year, people can package different proposals together to form national and global climate strategies that use simplified climate models to estimate the GHG reductions that would result. The MIT lab ran a pilot contest on this approach in 2015, with Henry Paulson, former U.S. Secretary of Treasury and former CEO of Goldman Sachs; Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute (WRI); and Janos Pasztor, then-current United Nations Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change, overseeing the global contest as advisors.
Over the past few years, the Climate CoLab has surfaced innovative solutions from across the globe. Last year, some of the winning proposals submitted to the platform included:
the non-profit SunSaluter, a rotating solar panel that generates 30 percent more electricity than a standard panel and four liters of clean drinking water each day;
a policy mechanism for internalizing marine emissions that combines charging a levy on emissions from international maritime shipping, with a fuel levy on fuel consumption by domestic shipping;
a national campaign on energy conservation and renewable energy in Indian schools that is working towards building a network of energy ambassadors.
More attention is turning toward this kind of crowd-based approach for addressing climate change. The Climate CoLab’s community has grown to over 50,000 people, including over 200 of the world’s leading experts on climate change. The lab announced a collaboration with the United Nations last December, and is working with Nike, 100 Resilient Cities, and other big players in the climate change space.
The 10 contests focus on decarbonizing energy supply, shifting public attitudes and behavior, adapting to climate change, buildings, transportation, industry, waste management, land use, materials, and information communication technology and cities.
In addition to submitting ideas, the Climate CoLab welcomes people from around the world to offer feedback and support proposals they find the most promising.
Submissions are due before May 23, 8 p.m. EDT. Enter soon to receive feedback from community members and experts overseeing the contests.