Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Climate CoLab

Blog post by Judd Ormsby

Crowdsourcing is cool. The internet is cool. Contests are fun. Why not set up an online contest that uses crowdsourcing to find solutions to climate change problems? Climate CoLab at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence does exactly that.
Each year it runs over a dozen online contests. Each contest requires people to propose a solution to a specific question, such as:

How could a national price on carbon be implemented in the United States?
What can be done to adapt to the impacts of climate change?
How can GHG emissions from the electricity sector be minimised?
How can we enable young people to take leadership now, and make a difference against climate change?

Anyone in the world can submit a proposal. Next, thousands of people from all over the world comment on how these proposals can be made better and vote on which proposals are best. The most popular proposal from each contest is presented live at MIT where a grand prize of $10,000 is awarded to the best proposal across all the contests. I had a quick look at some of the proposals and they are detailed and well-documented – not just off-the-cuff ideas.

Some of the proposals make suggestions that could have a large-scale effect on climate policy, for example this proposal which suggests a way to design a carbon price that is politically acceptable to American conservatives (though it has some prima facie drawbacks). Other proposals produce concrete products that give people information or change their views, such as a virtual pet that teaches children about climate change; a proposed map of climate change effects in different parts of the United States; and last year’s grand final winner which lets us listen to voice messages from a climate-changed future.  The list of finalists from the most recent competition has just been announced.

While a few of Climate CoLab’s competition categories are US-centric, most of them are not and I suspect New Zealanders might offer a different perspective. If you’re interested (either to enter future rounds, or just have a look), check it out.

Finally, to plug Motu’s own work, we too are hoping to generate some fresh ideas through the Low-Emission Future Dialogue, which includes participants across business, government, academia and NGOs.  The Dialogue so far has had two meetings and will continue to meet periodically over the coming year. We have also had our first ‘climate brainstorm’ which gets different people talking about climate change issues informally over dinner.

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