Join MIT’s Global Climate Change Conversation

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on November 13, 2014 · 10 comments

in Alumni Life, Energy, Public Service

How can MIT make a significant positive contribution to address climate change?

Former Secretary of State George Shultz PhD ’49 is a vocal proponent of action to combat climate change.

Former Secretary of State George Shultz PhD ’49 is a vocal proponent of action to combat climate change.

That’s the kind of chewy, global question MIT people like—and it is being asked by the newly formed Committee on the MIT Climate Change Conversation in an initiative announced this week. The answers are to come from the MIT campus community and alumni worldwide.

Right away, you can add your ideas to the conversation about what can be done in the areas of research, education, campus operations, finance, and policy. Alumni can log in through their Infinite Connection accounts to read comments already in the Idea Bank. Later in November, you can take part in a Climate Change Survey and the results will help determine a series of public forums in the spring.

Meanwhile, you can keep up with climate news:

Committee chair Roman Stocker, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, says the Institute community is a great source for ideas about new educational initiatives, both at MIT and edX, as well as new opportunities for research and improvements to campus infrastructure and operations.

“The global nature of this problem and the amount of debate and polarization that surround it are daunting, but the premise of the committee is that the complexity of the problem is uniquely suited for MIT, given our strong problem-solving ethos, and that a leading technical institution can have unique roles to play in responding to the climate crisis,” he said in an MIT News office interview.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim November 13, 2014 at 10:32 am

MIT should do a research project on what the global impact would be if every alumni of the Institute employed best practices against climate change: first in our personal lives alone, and then with our extended families, and then if we did the same in the businesses we run or organizations within which we have significant power.
Let’s start with ourselves first!! What change can we make as a community within the larger global community??


Shaba Shams November 13, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Researching and utilising renewable energy more to build green environment and green economy. I am resesrching on green technology and I want to design a green banking solution. Thanks for this fascinating opportunity!


Dr sairy silva November 13, 2014 at 9:29 pm

A good place to start would be the island of Puerto Rico.


Kim OBrien November 16, 2014 at 2:06 am

MIT has been talking about biomedical engineering for almost a half a century now. Design a plant (a living plant) that will be able to sequester large amounts of carbon quickly and that requires little human intervention and water. Release it into desert areas after controlled experiments in the wild. If we could than harvest the plant for energy use we would have a complete carbon cycle powered by sunlight.

If we could create new large forests of giant redwoods how much and how quickly could we implement that and how much CO2 would that sequester?

Could we redesign nuclear reactors to be fail safe, modular, and build them in factories instead of custom designs where safety requires correct human intervention.


John November 20, 2014 at 11:14 pm

And the reason that Richard Lindzen isn’t on the Climate Change Committee is…….(Seriously, you call yourself an institution devoted to the advancement of knowledge and you leave off one of the leading experts who happens to have a view – backed by a lot of facts – that differs with the politically correct crowd! If Professor Lindzen declined the opportunity to serve I apologize; otherwise this is truly pathetic.)


Joe Horton November 20, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Could someone point me to actual data about man-induced climate change? I keep hearing that it’s “accepted fact,” but the sources of that seem to be folks who have an agenda that is in conflict with any opposite point of view–a clear cut conflict of interest. Now we find that an MIT prof has confessed that “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” and I keep asking myself whether our staff are doing the same thing with “climate change.”

No question climate is changing. My question is whether we’re doing it, or is Mother Nature doing it regardless of what we do.

I also have no qualms about developing and using alternate energy sources–I think they’re great. I drive a Tesla roadster (got it over 3 years ago) and love it. And sooner or later, I suspect the S-model will be in my future. But the question is about the reality of what is going on. Just looking for data–real data.



Jim November 20, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Let’s examine the assumption underlying your question “whether we’re doing it, or is Mother Nature doing it regardless of what we do?”
What are we saying when we assert that humans are separate from Mother Nature? How can that be true?
We may be a species that is multiplying uncontrollably (sort of like a cancer), but that doesn’t mean we are not part of Mother Nature.


Joe Horton November 21, 2014 at 9:22 am

The mass of humanity is still a pretty small fraction of the planet’s total biomass, even considering what the human biomass controls. All I’m asking for is evidence–one way or another–of whether human actions have caused a change in Earth’s climate.

I do understand your statement, and I cannot disagree with what you wrote–yes, we are part of Nature. That’s not what I was asking, though.


George Reeves November 21, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Why are we trying to stabilize CO2 and the climate at present values?  What is the optimum for each?  We know that warmer increases food production by extending the growing season.  We also know that increased CO2 increases plant production and lowers their water consumption.  We also know that our 30% increase in CO2 has caused at most a 3% increase in greenhouse warming and that CO2 has been as much as 8 times higher in the distant past.  In the past 1000 years the Earth has been both warmer and colder than the present and colder was definitely worse. We are spending a lot of effort perhaps going in the wrong direction under the guidance of computer models which are so poor that they cannot even predict the present based on past input data.  We need modeling which can find optimums and guide us how to achieve them.  A lot of research needs to be done before we impoverish the planet making a global mistake.


Joseph P. McCluskey November 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Please take the politics and the huge financial beneficiaries out of the arena and allow sober work to proceed. Otherwise , the use of the faviriote words and phrases by unschooled would-be gurus such as “–the pending crisis !!!” and “–combat climate change. ” just inflames the oh-so-righteous uninformed. Robt. Schultz, a member of my generation, I always admired until now, I find has joined the Gore Greedy Misinformed team. It seems true that PHD (which we called ‘pile it higher and deeper’) is the direct regression from BS.


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