Long before MIT issued its 2015 climate action plan, students, staff, and faculty across the Institute have focused on crucial aspects of mitigating the climate crisis by advancing science, innovation policy, and education. Given the scope of the climate emergency, however, it is clear that we need to do more—much more.
In that spirit, in July 2020, we initiated the ambitious research effort called the Climate Grand Challenges, and in January 2021, as a natural complement, we launched the MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium (MCSC), an Institute-wide strategy with the potential to make all of MIT’s climate efforts more effective. Just as the Climate Grand Challenges are accelerating research on climate science and solutions, MCSC aims to vastly accelerate the adoption of such solutions, at scale, and spanning industries around the world.
The consortium’s member companies represent a range of industries, from construction to mining, transportation to textiles, real estate to pharmaceuticals. By convening major corporations that are striving to reach their own net-zero goals and by inspiring them to collaborate across sectors, we hope to test and deploy serious climate solutions on a global scale in time to make a real difference.
This issue of Spectrum highlights the remarkable range of MIT’s climate expertise, which resides in all five schools and the college of computing. MIT researchers are leading the way in climate modeling, alternative energy, low-carbon materials, and energy storage. They are making climate a central concern in architecture and building technology, transportation, and food safety. They are out in the field, around the world, studying the carbon cycle in coastal environments and working to reduce air pollutants in megacities. They are bringing economic, political, and cultural research to bear on climate change by addressing its societal dimensions. Researchers are even exploring the best ways to motivate people to take action.
An MIT project in collaboration with the City of Cambridge brings home the stark reality of the climate threat. It focuses on mapping and modeling the MIT campus to prepare us for climate resiliency in the face of potential threats like flooding or extreme heat. It is sobering to confront these not as remote possibilities but as eventual developments that require practical plans.
As a campus, a community, a nation, and a planet, we are all vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change. At MIT, we are meeting that challenge in the best can-do tradition, fearlessly pursuing facts with ingenuity and boldness.
L. Rafael Reif