Education is key in MIT’s new five-year plan for action on climate change

Arial photo of MIT campus.

Photo: Christopher Harting/AboveSummit

Yesterday MIT introduced a sweeping new five-year plan for action on climate change.

This plan embodies the fundamental agreement across our community that the problem of climate change, the subject of serious work at MIT for decades, demands society’s urgent attention. Given the Institute’s mission, history and capabilities, MIT has a particular responsibility to lead. Yet addressing this global problem will take deep societal change, and that means there is a role – and a personal responsibility – for everyone: every nation, every sector, every institution, every firm, every individual human being.

MIT News summarizes that the plan focuses MIT’s efforts in five areas whose elements have consensus support within the MIT community:

  1. research to further understand climate change and advance solutions to mitigate and adapt to it;
  2. the acceleration of low-carbon energy technology via eight new research centers;
  3. the development of enhanced educational programs on climate change;
  4. new tools to share climate information globally; and
  5. measures to reduce carbon use on the MIT campus.

Also noteworthy: the plan rejects the proposal for MIT to divest its investments in fossil fuel companies in favor of a strategy of active engagement; and specifically asserts the need for a price on carbon in order to align the incentives of industry with the imperatives of climate science.

The focus on educational programs is of particular interest to us at OCW. Enhancing the extensive educational opportunities currently available, the plan describes how MIT will:

  • offer an Environment and Sustainability undergraduate degree minor beginning in Fall 2017;
  • develop an online Climate Change and Sustainability credential offered through MITx on edX, building on Professor Kerry Emanuel’s outstanding course on climate change;
  • and, in a joint effort between MIT’s School of Engineering and School of Architecture and Planning, find ways to insert principles of “benign and sustainable design” more widely throughout MIT’s engineering and design instruction.

Stated simply: “Perhaps the most powerful way to trigger new thinking on climate is to educate a new generation of innovators—here on our campus and around the world.”

OCW heartily supports this effort. Check out our list of forty OCW courses on climate change and sustainability. We look forward to adding many more resources on this vital topic in the months and years ahead.

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