MIT announces the Climate Project, addressing environmental issues

The MIT community received the following letter from President Sally Kornbluth today.

Dear members of the MIT community,

During my inauguration, I heard a resounding call from the MIT community to come together and take strong, determined action to address the urgent crisis of climate change. I write to provide an update on how we are transforming this vision into reality.

This letter contains several important announcements, such as an accelerated search for faculty leaders and a significant commitment of funds from MIT. Please continue reading for more details.

A Legacy of Leadership at MIT

Since the release of the 1979 National Academy of Sciences report by Professor Jule Charney, which accurately predicted the risks of global warming, MIT researchers have been at the forefront of advancements in various climate-related fields. Currently, over 300 faculty members and their students and staff are actively involved in cutting-edge climate work. The Institute has also taken significant steps to enhance climate education, expand public outreach, and promote decarbonization on campus.

However, as the MIT community has emphasized, the magnitude of this moment necessitates a new level of speed, ambition, focus, and scale.

The Climate Project at MIT

After extensive consultations with more than 150 faculty and senior researchers across MIT, Vice Provost Richard Lester has spearheaded the development of a new approach: the Climate Project at MIT. Building on the strengths outlined in the 2021 Fast Forward: MIT’s Climate Action Plan for the Decade, this initiative represents a compelling strategy to accelerate university-led innovation. The Climate Project at MIT will harness the combined talent and resources of our community to address critical climate challenges urgently. It will also facilitate collaborations with partners from academia, industry, philanthropy, and government to implement technological, behavioral, and policy solutions on a global scale.

In a recent MIT News 3Q article, Richard elaborates on the early stages of the Climate Project at MIT. As new leaders and allies join from various sectors, their insights and expertise will shape its future direction.

Currently, we are establishing the structure and strategy to guide our work. The Climate Project at MIT will comprise three interconnected elements:

  • The Climate Missions
  • The Climate Frontier projects
  • The Climate HQ

To learn more about these components, please refer to this summary of the plan (PDF).

Leadership Recruitment for the Six Climate Missions

The central focus of the initiative will be six Climate Missions, each serving as a cross-disciplinary community within MIT dedicated to problem-solving in a specific area related to climate change:

  • Decarbonizing Energy and Industry
  • Restoring the Atmosphere, Protecting the Land and Oceans
  • Empowering Frontline Communities
  • Building and Adapting Healthy, Resilient Cities
  • Inventing New Policy Approaches
  • Wild Cards

We are currently searching for faculty leaders for each of these missions on an expedited timeline. We invite any interested faculty member to apply as a Climate Mission leader or nominate a colleague. Please submit your CV and statement of interest to climatesearch@mit.edu by February 22.

For further details about the role, please visit the preliminary webpage of the Climate Project. All submissions will be treated with the strictest confidence.

A New Leadership Position, a Search Committee, and Substantial MIT Resources

The Climate Project at MIT is gaining momentum, and we are taking the following three important steps to further enhance its progress:

1. Vice President for Climate

To underscore the significance of this work, we have established a new leadership position, the Vice President for Climate (VPC), who will report directly to me. The VPC will oversee the Climate Project at MIT, spearhead fundraising efforts, and help shape its strategic vision. We are now accepting applications and welcome candidates from both within and outside of MIT. Please submit your CV and statement of interest for the VPC role to climatesearch@mit.edu. A detailed job description will be posted soon.

2. Climate Search Advisory Committee

I have appointed the following faculty members to the Climate Search Advisory Committee, which will assist me in selecting the six mission leaders and the VPC:

  • Richard Lester (Chair)
  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Yet-Ming Chiang
  • Penny Chisholm
  • Dava Newman
  • Ron Rivest
  • Susan Solomon
  • John Sterman
  • Larry Vale
  • Rob van der Hilst
  • Anne White

3. $75 million in Support from MIT and MIT Sloan

As a significant catalyst for the Climate Project at MIT, we are committing $50 million in Institute resources, marking the largest direct investment MIT has ever made in climate-related work. This is merely the start of a far more ambitious endeavor to secure necessary funds. Additionally, the Sloan School will contribute $25 million to establish an endowment for a new climate policy center, which will be formally announced in the coming days. By combining these funds, we can make early progress and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to potential partners worldwide.

*    *    *

The Climate Project at MIT is an ambitious and multifaceted initiative that extends beyond the scope of this letter. I urge you to review the summary of the plan (PDF) to identify how you can contribute. There will be opportunities for everyone, including current DLCs engaged in climate-related work. (You may also enjoy watching this brief video, which showcases MIT’s unique ability to solve complex problems collaboratively on a large scale.)

In my inaugural address last spring, I expressed my hope that in a decade’s time, MIT would have played a significant role in leading a powerful cross-sector coalition and making substantial advancements against climate change. With your creativity, support, and dedication, I am confident that the Climate Project at MIT can turn this vision into a reality.

With great enthusiasm and anticipation,

Sally Kornbluth

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