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About the project

Objective

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.

Inspired by systems like Wikipedia and Linux, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 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. 

Approach

Anyone can join the Climate CoLab community and participate. Community members are invited to submit and comment on proposals outlining ideas for what they think should be done about climate change. In some contests, members create proposals for specific kinds of actions such as generating electric power with fewer emissions or changing social attitudes about climate change.  In other contests, members combine ideas from many other proposals to create integrated climate action plans for a country, a group of countries, or the whole world. Experts evaluate the entries and pick finalists, and then both experts and community members select the most promising proposals. For more, see Contest phases.

Quantifying Impact

To keep proposals grounded in physical reality, members can work with tools on the platform and a specialized team of emission modelers to estimate the impact their proposals could have on greenhouse gas emissions. In the global plan contest  For more, see assessing impact.

Activity to date

As of May 2015, more than 300,000 people from all over the world have visited the Climate CoLab site, over 35,000 have registered as members and over 1,000 proposals have been submitted.  In addition to members of the general public, the community includes over 200 experts on climate change and related topics who serve as Advisors, Judges, and Fellows.  Membership has tripled each year, the White House Climate Data Initiative has recognized the project, and media outlets such as the BBC, NPR, PBS, Boston GlobeUK Guardian, Discovery, Weather Channel, and Popular Science have featured it.

The 2014 activities included 18 contests on a range of topics from how to reduce emissions from electric power generation to how city governments can adapt to changes brought on by climate change.  Nearly 600 proposals were submitted, and winning proposals came from US, India, Japan, Australia, Tanzania, Venezuela, Kenya, and other countries.  Winning ideas included (a) instituting a US carbon tax that creates pro-growth tax reform while also protecting the poor and reducing the federal deficit, (b) better educating building technicians to take advantage of the often unused energy-saving potential of sophisticated heating and cooling systems, and (c) using radio programs and two-way text messaging to help residents of coastal areas in Tanzania (and other developing countries) adapt to changing weather and other effects of climate change. In one contest, community members also developed integrated proposals that brought together elements from many different sub-areas into overall proposed solutions for the whole world.

Winning teams in previous years presented their ideas in briefings at the United Nations in New York and the US Congress in Washington, DC.  In 2013 and 2014, winners met with relevant experts and potential implementers at the MIT Climate CoLab Conferences, each with over 800 attendees (in person and online).   

2015 Climate CoLab winners will receive a special invitation to attend selected sessions at MIT's Solve conference, free of charge.  At this gathering, many of the world's leading technologists, philanthropists, business leaders, policy makers, and social change agents will be challenged to help solve the most difficult questions of our time.  

In 2014, the Climate CoLab began pilot-testing tools with which community members combine different ideas from many different proposals to create and assess climate strategies for regions and for the entire world.

For more, see History of the Climate CoLab.

What organizations are involved?

The Climate CoLab is a project of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.  Funding has come from the National Science Foundation, corporate sponsors of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, the Argosy Foundation, the MIT Energy Initiative, and the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative.  The last two of these organizations, along with the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, helped organize the Climate CoLab Conferences.

Many Climate CoLab contests have been conducted in collaboration with non-governmental organizations (American Geophysical Union, Carbon War Room, the Elders, ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability, Third Way, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Green Building Council and others) and government entities (World Bank, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Cities of Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts).  For a full list of collaborating organizations, see Sponsors/collaborators.

Outcome

By constructively engaging a broad range of scientists, policy makers, business people, investors, and concerned citizens, we hope the Climate CoLab will help to develop, and gain support for, climate change plans that are better than any that would have otherwise been developed.