Solving Climate Change with Crowdsourcing

Many people would say that one of the most important problems facing humanity today is global climate change. It is affected by all of our actions, and it will potentially affect every one of us. But even though many scientists, journalists, politicians, businesses, and consumers are talking about this problem, we aren’t even close to solving it.

Fortunately, at the same time that we have this potentially huge global problem, we also have the possibility of using a new kind of global problem solving approach. As examples like Wikipedia and Linux show, it’s now possible to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people around the world to work closely together at a scale that was never possible before in human history.

In the Climate CoLab project, we’re applying this approach to climate change. An online community of people from all over the world is already creating, analyzing, and discussing detailed proposals for how to address global climate change. For instance, last fall we had a global competition for proposals addressing the question: What international climate agreements should the world community make?

The proposals we received included a number of interesting ideas from some surprising places. One of the finalist proposals came from a team at Tsinghua University in Beijing; another came from a software developer in North Carolina who had no prior professional connection to this issue. The winning “Popular Choice” proposal suggested a creative kind of negotiation between neighboring countries in the Northern and Southern hemispheres that I haven’t heard proposed anywhere else.

To better connect our contest to the world discussion, we arranged for the winners to present their ideas in briefings at both the United Nations and the U.S. Congress. Not only did policymakers have an opportunity to hear the winning ideas, but the winners agreed afterwards to create a new proposal combining the best of their ideas.

Now that our first contest has closed, we’re encouraged to see that the Climate CoLab continues to link people together from around the world. Over 13,000 visitors have come from 131 countries on all the world’s continents except Antarctica.

At a minimum, we hope the Climate CoLab will help educate the general public about climate change issues. But we believe there also is a real chance that it can facilitate a more productive global conversation. We hope that with thousands of people involved in the discussion, the plans and policies that emerge from this process will be better than anything we otherwise would have developed.

MIT Sloan School of Management Prof. Thomas W. Malone is the director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, which is leading the Climate CoLab project.

3 Comments

  1. Posted May 5, 2011 at 2:11 am | Permalink | Reply

    I am wondering why Chris F. Masse of http://www.midasoracle.org/ is so opposed to crowd wisdom?

  2. Posted May 5, 2011 at 2:17 am | Permalink | Reply

    crowd Outsourcing can really help in solving some of the world climatic changes that we are experiencing now.

    Collective idea explosion and implementation of the best idea as per the need in the global arena will definitely help in reducing the impact of climatic changes or even eliminate the change itself

    Regards
    http://ourtownamericacom

  3. Posted May 5, 2011 at 2:17 am | Permalink | Reply

    crowd Outsourcing can really help in solving some of the world climatic changes that we are experiencing now.

    Collective idea explosion and implementation of the best idea as per the need in the global arena will definitely help in reducing the impact of climatic changes or even eliminate the change itself

    Regards
    http://ourtownamerica.com

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] a new post, Malone provides an update on the goings on of Climate [...]

  2. [...] in February, the blog kicked off with Professor Tom Malone’s post on Solving Climate Change with Crowdsourcing, a commentary on the Climate CoLab project that has an online community of people worldwide [...]

  3. [...] Malone is a smart man, and his institution is a great idea. But I can’t stand that:Solving Climate Change with CrowdSourcingI am fed up with the academics who are overselling the wisdom of crowds. Enough already. About Chris [...]

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