Taking Our Shot to the Ground

Last May, when we issued our Climate Action Plan for decades, we mobilized MIT to address climate issues that have never happened before. The complexities and uncertainties of climate change deal with it much more than “hitting the moon”. It was difficult for people to reach the moon. It was, however, a defined problem with a solution based on established science without the application of opposing forces except for a few actual laws. The “grounding” that we need now requires unwavering contributions from industry, government, academic institutions, foundations and all of us as social workers and individuals.

The courage to oversimplify, the challenge here: we must find affordable and fair ways to bring all aspects of the global economy to zero carbon by 2050. At the same time, we must adapt to the effects of climate change that we cannot avoid. We should follow two paths simultaneously to do these in less than 30 years. In the first place, we must now have as much equipment as possible, not just science and technology, but policy, infrastructure, behavioral and cultural change, and much more. In the United States, the federal government can play an important role by providing a national roadmap and sustainable investment. However, the current technology alone will not lead us to the goal of 2050. In parallel, we need to innovate, invest and implement a set of new tools on two routes.

MIT is taking action on all these fronts. Last year we launched the Great Climate Challenge to inspire bold ideas to tackle some of the most difficult unresolved issues around the climate. Our faculty introduced ideas that could be game changers, ranging from capturing carbon dioxide by involving fast-growing germs in light-weight, all-carbon building designs. It is also important to find quick and efficient ways to deliver new solutions across the economy. 

That’s why we build the motor – identify entrepreneurs with bold new scientific answers to deep social problems and connect them with investors. The concepts of the works range from zero-emission steel production to the most promising strategy for carbon-free fusion power.