MIT's Climate CoLab aims to construct an effective democratic consensus on how best to address global warming across the international community. In other words, it's perhaps the most powerful and ambitious effort yet to crowd-source climate solutions. The short video above does a more interesting (and more succinct) job of explaining how the CoLab works than I can, so check it out. But think Linux meets Reddit (or some other democratic social media site) meets a friendly online competition to solve the climate crisis, and you'll have some idea of how the CoLab works.
Anyone can sign up and submit ideas or lend your opinions to what's essentially an elaborate online discussion thread for climate issues. Last year, the overarching topic was "What international climate agreements should the world community make?". This year, it's "How should the 21st century economy evolve bearing in mind the risks of climate change?" The discussion takes the form of a 'contest', as the users that submit the most successful ideas receive the opportunity to present their work to the real-world U.N. Here are some of the proposals currently undergoing discussion.
So, members posit ideas, which are then debated on the thread by other members. Scientists and policy experts then weigh in on the ideas, as do other members of the CoLab (which, fittingly, happens to be short for Collaboratorium) community. The most roundly-agreed upon ideas, and those that are most scientifically and politically sound, get 'rated up'.
Then, this being MIT and all, the CoLabbers take it one step further: they actually model the top ideas using advanced software. According to MIT, "Open modeling, or simulation modeling, projects the likely impact of actions proposed to address climate change in the CoLab. The system makes use of the many existing models of the physical and human systems that effect climate. The CoLab will also pioneer a new approach for extending and developing these models, radically open modeling."
In other words, you get to see an extremely advanced estimation of the real-world impact the crowd's policy solutions would have.
From start to finish, it's an extremely interesting process, and one that has a potential to yield the sort of big ideas that we need more of in the climate debate. And, as far as I can tell, it could most significantly benefit from some good PR, in order to get as many people involved as possible. Hence, this post, and a Treehugger partnership of sorts -- we'll be posting on the best ideas here, and featuring an interview with the winner of the contest. So stay tuned.
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