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IDEAS into Action on Climate and Energy

By Philip Jutras '65

Phil Jutras '65 reports on the recent MIT Cloud/Climate CoLab Annual Conference. More.
Phil Jutras '65 reports on the recent MIT Cloud/Climate CoLab Annual Conference. More.

MIT’s Kresge Auditorium was the center of activity for the Cloud/Climate IDEAS into Action Conference which took place on November 6th and 7th. Sponsored by the Center for Collective Intelligence, the meeting connected student climate and energy projects with expert analysis and nationally known speakers. Stephanie Cosner Berzin, Co-Director of the Boston College Center for Social Innovation, spoke as panelist about social engagement strategies for new climate initiatives.

MIT student award winning projects included one which experimented with electric school buses. Once converted to electric power, the buses store energy in batteries during the twice daily trips along school routes. At the end of each day, the stored electricity is distributed to the grid. For large school bus fleets, energy savings could result in sizeable pay back for the district. A further innovation would be the placement of solar panels on the buses’ roofs.

The difficulty of influencing and expanding awareness of the impact of climate change was the topic of a faculty-student group from Prince Edward Island University. One barrier for engaging broader segments of the general population on climate change is that its effects are neither visible nor directly felt by many citizens. The faculty-student initiative used aerial views of Prince Edward Island with advanced 3D time to illustrate a dramatic projection of shoreline erosion over intervals of 10 years from 2014 to 2044.

On a topic central to BCEEAN, Anthony Luseowitz, Director of the Yale University Climate Change Communications Project, spoke about the difficulty of reaching different audiences with respect to the impact of climate change on our planet and our cities. The mindset of Americans can be divided into six audiences each requiring a different approach to information and the interpretation of research on climate change. Dr. Luseowitz recommended simplifying and communicating the message in as few as the following ten words:

  1. It’s real
  2. It’s us
  3. It’s bad
  4. Scientists agree (98%)
  5. There’s Hope!

Luseowitz believes conveying the concept in simple ways can lead to gaining access to audiences that are indifferent or in denial about climate change.

The final day of the conference featured Jeremy Grantham of the Grantham Foundation and author of The Race of our Lives. He suggests that as early as the 1950s, a Republican president (Dwight Eisenhower) warned of the military industrial complex and its impact on the economy and on limited resources in America. Grantham pointed out that climate research and action is located mainly in northern hemispheres in Europe and US and Canada. Colder climates have more severe flooding and have populations with higher levels of education than in developing countries. He asked, “what are the economic benefits of reducing CO2; what are the environmental benefits; and how does alternative energy renewal play a role?” At the core of the problem is population growth – in some countries exponential growth – which may lead to uncontrolled warming and extreme weather. Grantham suggested that we cannot control all the forces contributing to extremes in climate without international collaboration and advanced technology.

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