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Environmental Research Council issues report

Council is asked to develop plan to establish MIT Environmental Initiative

Provost L. Rafael Reif issued the following letter to the community on Thursday, May 20.

To the members of the MIT community,

In September 2008, I charged the Environmental Research Council (ERC), to support the creation of an Institute-wide Environmental Initiative in keeping with the recommendations of the May 2008 Zuber report.

Chaired by Professor Dara Entekhabi, the ERC has produced a vision for new environmental research and educational opportunities at MIT. The report that I share today outlines a number of research areas where MIT faculty and students can build on existing strength in multiple disciplines to advance solutions to environmental challenges of global significance. Today, we take the next steps towards launching a robust and ambitious environmental initiative.

Next step: a plan for implementation

I am now charging an expanded ERC, under the continuing leadership of Professor Entekhabi, to take up the next challenge: designing an implementation plan, such as that produced for the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) in 2006.  Building on the ERC report released today and the Zuber report that preceded it, the plan should:
  • Provide a detailed blueprint for building a strong environmental initiative, with priorities set for staged development over several years
  • Have broad-based faculty input
  • Complement and identify synergies with MITEI and other relevant MIT laboratories, centers and programs
  • Establish benchmarks for progress at three-year and five-year milestones
The expanded ERC will consist of the following faculty:
  • Dara Entekhabi (CEE) chair
  • Martin Z. Bazant (ChemE)
  • Sallie (Penny) Chisholm (CEE)
  • Catherine L. Drennan (Chem)
  • Michael Greenstone (Econ)
  • Jeffrey C. Grossman (DMSE)
  • Judith Layzer (DUSP)
  • John H. Lienhard (MechE)
  • John C. Marshall (EAPS)
  • Ronald G. Prinn (EAPS)
  • Harriet Ritvo (Hist)
  • Leona D. Samson (BE and Biology)
  • John Sterman (SSM)
  • J. Phillip Thompson (DUSP)
  • James Wescoat (Arch)
  • Richard A. Young (Biology/Whitehead)
The implementation report should be completed by October 2010 so that, following an opportunity for community comment, we can begin implementation in January 2011.

Creating an Energy and Environment Board

In addition, to help my office define specific steps for establishing a strong and effective campus-wide environmental initiative, I am appointing a senior Energy and Environmental Board. The Board will advise me and the ERC on implementation and on coordination with other campus efforts, most especially MITEI. Consisting of faculty from all five MIT schools, this Board includes the ERC chair and several people in key administrative positions whose cooperation will be essential to the success of our environmental initiative. The members will be:
  • Ernest J Moniz (Physics), chair
  • Andrew Whittle (CEE), vice-chair
  • Dara Entekhabi (CEE)
  • Amy Glasmeier (DUSP)
  • Richard M. Locke (SSM)
  • Susan S. Silbey (Anthropology)
  • Maria Zuber (EAPS)

The disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico offers a searing reminder of the vast scale and significance of the world's environmental challenges and of their inextricable ties to questions of energy, economics and policy. We are grateful to the faculty members who have agreed to serve on the ERC and on the Energy and Environmental Board. As they prepare the Institute to confront the full array of global environmental challenges, I look forward to working with them to accelerate and magnify MIT's contributions.

L. Rafael Reif

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