MIT Sloan’s Climate CoLab Contest winners present proposals to the United Nations and U.S. Congress

Cambridge, Mass., Jan. 23, 2012—After contributing a wide range of innovative ideas for how the 21st century economy should evolve in light of the risks of climate change, winners of MIT Sloan School of Management’s 2011 Climate CoLab contest will now present their proposals to the United Nations and U.S. Congress.

Beginning tomorrow the winning teams will be featured at the United Nations where they will present their proposals to Brice Lalonde and Elizabeth Thompson, executive coordinators for the upcoming United Nations Rio+20 Conference. A visit to Capitol Hill will follow on Jan. 25 where the teams will participate in a briefing sponsored by the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee.

“Even though the problem of what to do about global climate change is very complex, recent examples like Wikipedia, Google and Linux show that it’s possible to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people around the world to solve complex global problems. Our goal with the Climate CoLab is to apply that approach to the problem of climate change,” says MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Malone, director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, which leads the Climate CoLab.

Research scientist Rob Laubacher, who manages the Climate CoLab and is associate director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, adds, “Many people are concerned about climate change around the world, but feel they don’t have a voice in serious discussions on the issue. The presentations at the U.N. and on Capitol Hill are an important part of the contest, as they allow the winners to share their ideas with a larger audience and provide input to policymakers.”

Focusing on the green economy, which will be a key theme at the UN’s Rio+20 Conference in June 2012, participants in the 2011 Climate CoLab Contest were asked to submit proposals with either a national or international approach. In all more than 60 proposals were entered into the contest from teams around the world.

In the global category, the winner of the Popular Choice Award was a proposal that combined the top ideas from the 2010 contest. Meeting at a Congressional briefing last year, those winning teams agreed that contestant Dennis Peterson, a software engineer from North Carolina, would combine the best elements of their proposals to enter the 2011 contest. The new proposal focused on a North/South approach to global agreements for emissions reductions, as well as lowering mitigation targets to make them more achievable and using technology and policies to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Second place in the global category went to a U.S. team whose members are affiliated with a political blog, the Daily Kos. Proposing a reduction in meat eating to reduce high impact greenhouse gases, they also received a judges’ special commendation for their proposal’s combination of scientific focus and grassroots activity.

In the national category, Peterson again won first place for his proposal about cycling carbon in the U.S. Second place in the national category was awarded to a graduate student team from India, which proposed ideas for how to reduce emissions in their country and use computer technology for monitoring.

Two Judges’ Choice Awards were presented in the national category. One was awarded to a team from Nigeria proposing that university students work with subsistence farmers not only to mitigate climate change, but also to ensure that farming practices adapt to new climate conditions. The other Judges’ Choice Award went to an MIT computer science researcher who proposed the use of personal rapid transit systems in urban areas in the U.S.

“Last year’s contest was a great success and we’re looking ahead to the 2012 contest in which contestants might be able to propose solutions that address particular aspects of the overall global problem,” says Malone. “There are many smart and creative people around the world interested in climate change and we hope they participate in the Climate CoLab community and 2012 contest.”