Do you have an idea about how to approach climate change? You’re not alone. Thousands of other people around the world are coming up with potential solutions to one of the world’s most challenging problems, but until now they have not been able to easily connect. MIT’s Climate CoLab is attempting to change this by bringing together innovators from across the globe to collaborate and develop solutions to the problem of climate change.
The basic idea of the Climate CoLab is similar to Wikipedia or Linux in that it harnesses “micro-contributions from many people around the world,” as Laur Fisher the CoLab’s Community and Partnerships Manager describes. To do this, the CoLab runs annual competitions, in which anyone can submit a proposal that addresses a climate change issue. Members of the CoLab community, including general public and experts in the field, are then encouraged to provide feedback on the entries, and eventually expert judges select finalists. A second cycle of feedback then begins for the finalists to allow thorough development of the proposals, and in the end the public votes on the winners. Fisher describes that the goal of the CoLab is to facilitate a “transparent contest.” She notes that “anyone can comment and everything is open.” This year’s competition is currently in its final round of judging, and all participants are encouraged to vote until the end of August on their favorite proposals.
This year, the Climate CoLab ran 18 different competitions that address different aspects of climate change – for example, there was a contest focused on hydraulic fracturing “fracking;” one was titled “urban adaptation: climate resilient cities;” and one addressed the efficiency of buildings. Proposals were submitted from around the world – from Asia, to Central and South America, and even Iceland – and the applicants came from all education levels and professions. Fisher asserts that the CoLab needs this diversity of members “because the issue of climate change is such a global issue, but then it’s also complex – there’s no one solution.”
The winning proposals will be announced shortly after the voting ends, and the authors will be invited make presentations at the Climate CoLab’s yearly conference on November 6-7. The conference is free for anyone to attend, and the theme this year is “Crowds and Climate,” focusing on the role crowds play in addressing climate change – an interesting topic for anyone involved in a citizen science project! At the conference, the next competitions will also be announced for those who are eager to submit a proposal.
Voting for this year’s proposals closes at midnight (EDT) on August 31. Get started!
Emily Lewis is a PhD candidate in chemistry at Tufts University, where she investigates industrially important catalysts on the nanoscale. She received her BS and MS degrees from Northeastern University, and her thesis work investigated fuel cell catalysts under real operating conditions. She loves learning about energy and the environment, exploring science communication, and investigating the intersection of these topics with the policy world. When she’s not writing or in the lab, you’ll probably spot Emily at the summit of one of the White Mountains in NH. Follow her: @lewisbase, emilyannelewis.com.