Quantcast

MIT Crowdsourcing Project Asks for Your Help in Solving Climate Crisis

Climate

Climate change can seem like such a huge and intractable problem, its causes so beyond our control, that it's easy to throw up your hands and say, "There's not much I can do about it." It seems like we're always being told that no matter what steps are taken, it's not enough.

Somerville, Massachusetts is using MIT's Climate CoLab to crowdsource ideas for becoming carbon neutral. Photo credit: City of Somerville

Climate CoLab, hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Collective Intelligence, aims to combat that attitude by breaking the issues into a series of "sub-problems" that are small enough for groups of individuals to tackle. It's doing this via crowdsourcing—hosting a series of contests that solicits proposals in a number of areas related to climate change. It helps the semi-finalists refine their proposals and connects the winners with resources, people and organizations that can help them put their ideas into action.

"The goal of the Climate CoLab is to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people from all around the world to address global climate change," it says. "Inspired by systems like Wikipedia and Linux, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Collective Intelligence has developed this crowdsourcing platform where citizens work with experts and each other to create, analyze and select detailed proposals for what to do about climate change."

You don't have to be a high-level scientist to join Climate CoLab and contribute an idea—anyone can do so. Experts evaluate proposals, sometimes using computerized simulation models to project the environmental and economic outcomes of the idea, and pick the finalists. The experts and community members together pick the winners. Climate CoLab currently has over 34,000 registered members and has had visitors from every country in the world.

Climate CoLab ran its first full-scale contest in the fall of 2010 with one contest yielding four winners, primarily teams of MIT graduate students. The winners got to present their proposals at the UN and Congress. Last year, it ran 18 contests, attracted 582 submissions and produced 34 winners. The grand prize was awarded to a proposal to improve building energy performance through green job skills training, submitted by Boston energy efficiency engineer Danielle Dahan. In the last three years, winners have come from the U.S., Australia, China, India, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, South Africa, Tanzania and Venezuela, among other countries.

The contests ask for ideas ranging from the big and broad to the narrow and specific. There are 22 contests currently open, on topics ranging from land use to transportation to waste management. They are asking for proposals on ways rural communities can increase their climate change resilience; initiatives, policies and technology that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation; and how perceptions, norms, values and attitudes about climate change can be shifted. If those are too sweeping to wrap your mind around, they're also looking for innovative ways Somerville, Massachusetts can become carbon-neutral.

Climate CoLab is looking for ideas on how farmers in Tajikistan's Pamir Mountains can adapt to climate change.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Currently the most popular contest, attracting 12 proposals so far and a lively discussion featuring more than 100 comments, is equally specific but a world away: it is asking for input on how scientific climate change data can be linked to the traditional ecological calendars used by farmers in the Pamir Mountains between Afghanistan and Tajikistan to produce more accurate planting and harvesting information. If you have thoughts on that, get them together and submit them by May 16.

"The world is becoming more and more complex," says Josh Introne, a postdoctoral associate at MIT's Sloan School of Management. "We can't manage all this complexity using traditional top down structures. The smartest person is not going to figure this all out. So we need to find ways to better use all of our diverse capabilities."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

U.S. Makes Historic Climate Pledge Ahead of Paris Talks, Joins EU, Mexico, Norway and Switzerland

Antarctica Records Hottest Day Ever, New Study Finds Rapid Acceleration of Ice Melt

Dumping ALEC Is Not Enough to Combat Climate Change

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Micromobility is the future of transportation in cities, but cities and investors need to plan ahead to avoid challenges. Jonny Kennaugh / Unsplash

By Carlo Ratti, Ida Auken

On the window of a bike shop in Copenhagen, a sign reads: Your next car is a bike.

Read More Show Less
An American flag waves in the wind at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California on May 17 where a trial against Monsanto took place. Alva and Alberta Pilliod, were awarded more than $2 billion in damages in their lawsuit against Monsanto, though the judge in the case lowered the damage award to $87 million. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

For the last five years, Chris Stevick has helped his wife Elaine in her battle against a vicious type of cancer that the couple believes was caused by Elaine's repeated use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide around a California property the couple owned. Now the roles are reversed as Elaine must help Chris face his own cancer.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Butterfly habitats have fallen 77 percent in the last 50 years. Pixabay / Pexels

The last 50 years have been brutal for wildlife. Animals have lost their habitats and seen their numbers plummet. Now a new report from a British conservation group warns that habitat destruction and increased pesticide use has on a trajectory for an "insect apocalypse," which will have dire consequences for humans and all life on Earth, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Six of the nineteen wind turbines which were installed on Frodsham Marsh, near the coal-powered Fiddler's Ferry power station, in Helsby, England on Feb. 7, 2017.

Sales of electric cars are surging and the world is generating more and more power from renewable sources, but it is not enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to stop the global climate crisis, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Read More Show Less
"Globally, we're starting to see examples of retailers moving away from plastics and throwaway packaging, but not at the urgency and scale needed to address this crisis." Greenpeace

By Jake Johnson

A Greenpeace report released Tuesday uses a hypothetical "Smart Supermarket" that has done away with environmentally damaging single-use plastics to outline a possible future in which the world's oceans and communities are free of bags, bottles, packaging and other harmful plastic pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Children are forced to wear masks due to the toxic smoke from peat land fires in Indonesia. Aulia Erlangga / CIFOR

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Pediatricians in New Delhi, India, say children's lungs are no longer pink, but black.

Our warming planet is already impacting the health of the world's children and will shape the future of an entire generation if we fail to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6°F), the 2019 Lancet Countdown Report on health and climate change shows.

Read More Show Less
Private homes surround a 20 inch gas liquids pipeline which is part of the Mariner East II project on Oct. 5, 2017 in Marchwood, Penn. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

The FBI is looking into how the state of Pennsylvania granted permits for a controversial natural gas pipeline as part of a corruption investigation, the AP reports.

Read More Show Less
Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles. Carolina Wild Ones / Facebook

Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less