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2015 Winners Announced by MIT Climate CoLab


With only months before the long anticipated international climate negotiations in Paris, a project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a set of new innovations for effective climate action.

But these ideas weren’t developed by MIT professors or students; they were collected from and selected by the 50,000 people around the world who are members of the Climate CoLab, an online community that works with experts and each other to develop climate solutions.

The Climate CoLab is run by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI), and aims to offer a new approach to addressing climate change.

“Many online platforms — like Wikipedia, Linux, FoldIt — have developed a new way of solving complex challenges: online crowdsourcing,” says Professor Thomas Malone, director of CCI and principal investigator of the Climate CoLab.  “Millions of people around the world can now work together online to achieve a common goal at a scale and with a degree of collaboration that was never before possible.”

Malone believes, if done well, these collective intelligence tools could change the way we work, run businesses, and even solve our world’s most complicated problems, like climate change.

The Climate CoLab recently announced the 32 winners of the 15 contests it ran in 2015.  The contests sought ways to have a significant impact on different aspects of the climate change problem, such as reducing emissions from electrical generation, changing public attitudes about climate change, and implementing a carbon price in the United States.

The winning proposals represent a broad set of actions of what can be done in each of these areas.  Some of the winners include:

Integrating REDD+ and Green Economic Growth for sustainable forest landscapes, by Charles Ehrhart.  This start-up company has created a model to create scalable, replicable financial incentives for the sustainable management of forest landscapes, and is working closely with Brazilian farmers to implement it.

Electricity at the lowest societal cost: holistic optimization, by EMERGE
A model that can be used by city energy decision-makers to calculate the social cost of electricity infrastructure.

China’s rural-urban intensification: Envisioning the habitat of the future, by tcatta
This proposed research project looks at design strategies to improve resilience of China’s rural towns.

Utilizing Molecularly Imprinted Technology to Selectively Filter Pollutants, by Alex Krotz
This high school student offers a way for Molecular Imprinted Polymers to filter pollutants.

Tidal Pump, by Robert Tulip
This concept aims to shift large volumes of liquid in the ocean to increase carbon sequestration by algae.

Several contests were run in collaboration with organizations such as the World Bank’s Negawatt Challenge, MIT Sloan’s Latin America Office, and the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange.

One contest, run with the City of Somerville, Massachusetts, asked the public to present innovative ideas on how the city can reach their goal of becoming a carbon neutral city by 2050.

“The Climate CoLab brought dozens of just this kind of idea for reaching carbon neutrality to our community, and I trust we will learn from and advance many of them,” said Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, who participated as a judge for the contest.

The World Bank’s Negawatt Challenge’s Climate CoLab contest focused on how we can leverage innovation in hardware, software and business models to increase urban energy efficiency. The winning proposal, Making every watt count: An intelligent demand side management system on phones, suggested a smart phone audit system, which would allow for consumers to view their energy consumption and tips to reduce energy use on the go.

“This virtual medium added significant value to the Negawatt Challenge,” said Eric Hansen from the World Bank, “It enabled participants to contribute and receive feedback from global experts regardless of their geographic location.”

All winners will be invited to present their proposals before key constituents at MIT’s Crowds & Climate conference, which is open to the public, on October 6th at MIT’s campus, where a $10,000 Grand Prize will be awarded.

More information:
List of the 2015 winners:
Learn about and register for the Crowds & Climate Conference, on October 5 – 6, visit:
MIT Center for Collective Intelligence:

Laur Fisher, Climate CoLab Project Manager