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MIT on Climate = Science + Action

I had the opportunity to attend a symposium at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Climate change. It was organized by the Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences department at MIT. Below are the 3 messages I got from that symposium.

Global warming is real and humans have caused it

Global warming is a term used to describe a gradual increase in the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere and its oceans, a change that is believed to permanently change the Earth’s climate[1]. UNs intergovernmental panel on Climate change concluded with 95 % certainty that humans are the main cause of global warming [2]. Global warming is caused by burning of fossil fuels, which releases additional CO2 and other heat-trapping gases into the Earth’s atmosphere. In the last 100 years, the average temperature of Earth has changed by 1C due to anthropogenic emissions.

So what? The risks of climate change are rising sea levels, increase in droughts and floods, in high category hurricanes, and increase in heat stress and other health risks. There is also a risk of increase in armed conflicts because the Earth’s resources (food, water etc.) will be distributed unevenly due to changing climactic conditions. The threat of climate change is real and we have to take immediate action to minimize the effects of global warming.

We can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by using diverse alternative energy sources

The solution that everyone has in mind is to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar power. The speaker, Prof. Dennis Whyte, mentioned that fossil fuels provide 83 % of our energy needs. The US uses 2.5 terawatts of energy and the world’s consumption is 10 terawatts of energy. The challenge would be to scale the renewable energy sources at a faster rate to meet our current needs. Care should also be taken so that the shift in energy source does not jeopardize the present economic engine.

Prof. Dennis Whyte pointed out that nuclear energy could address the issue of large scale energy consumption through offshore nuclear power plants, where the safety aspect is also taken into consideration. We should look at the diversification of different kinds of renewable resources rather than using an ‘either or’ approach.

The best way to tackle climate change is to work together and generate ideas without borders

In the 2015 United Nations Climate Change conference at Paris, 188 countries [3] agreed to reduce their carbon emissions. The Paris Agreement is a step in the right direction. It is only the first step. We are yet to come up with the right policies and strategies to cap the carbon emissions. The goal is to maintain the Earth’s temperature 1.5-2 C above the pre-industrial temperatures by regulating the carbon emissions.

Prof. Thomas Malone suggested that the best way to address climate change is have an open source framework, which replicates systems such as Wikipedia and Linux. MIT Center for collective intelligence has developed Climate Colab [4], a framework, where experts and citizens come together with ideas about how to minimize the impact of climate change. It is e-brainstorming at a global scale. One of the winning ideas of the Climate Colab was sunsaluter [5]. The Sunsaluter uses the power of gravity and water to increase the efficiency of solar panels by 30 %.

This is the time to work together to create a better future and save our lovely planet.


Quote for this post: Global warming is not a conqueror to kneel before – but a challenge to rise to. A challenge we must rise to. – Joe Lieberman





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