The MIT Climate Change Conversation Committee is seeking community engagement in the Conversation on Climate Change, an Institute initiative to discuss what committee chair Roman Stocker said has the potential to be the “biggest problem [MIT] has ever contributed to solving.”
In a survey of the MIT community taken last November, the committee found that MIT has a “strong interest in taking action on climate change,” Stocker told The Tech. The survey, which received more than 8,000 responses, was a first step for the initiative and helped shape its next stage, an event series which kicked off Jan. 21 with a talk by Dr. Larry Linden PhD ’88.
Linden is the founder of the Linden Trust for Conservation, which is working to promote a federal carbon tax. In his talk, he outlined his personal journey to climate activism, and explained why he believes climate change is “the most critical issue facing humanity today.”
Quoting last year’s climate change report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which highlighted the risk of “abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts” if the current carbon dioxide emissions trend were to continue, Linden characterized climate change as potentially catastrophic.
Linden’s talk, which he himself described as “provocative,” was intended to stimulate discussion.
Stocker said that “having Dr. Linden’s talk as a kick-off event appeared to be a good ‘motivator’ for the conversation, to generate engagement, provoke, and ignite discussions on the role that we can play at MIT.”
The event series will continue throughout the spring, presenting the MIT community with various ways of taking action against climate change.
Outlining future events, Stocker said that “there will be one event in which divestment is debated, one event in which a panel of experts discusses climate change communication and the role of science, and one event in which we explore what MIT is doing in terms of its campus operations.”
According to Geoffrey Supran, a graduate representative on the committee, additional events will place particular emphasis on ideas that the MIT community has expressed interest in through the survey and through the Idea Bank on the Committee’s website.
The Committee plans to poll the community on which climate actions it would like to see MIT take as the event series comes to a close in April. The results of this second survey will directly feed into the Committee’s final report.
Supran would like to see MIT continue its climate change discussion beyond this final report, however. He hopes that “by embracing the diversity of perspectives and expertise across our campus, the [Conversation on Climate Change] will be the foundation for an MIT Climate Action Plan.”
For now, though, the Committee is focused on gathering input from the community, which Supran says will be essential to the conversation’s success.