Letter to the MIT community: Announcing the Climate Project at MIT

President Kornbluth introduces a major campus-wide effort to solve critical climate problems with all possible speed.

The following letter was sent to the MIT community today by President Sally Kornbluth.

Dear members of the MIT community, At my inauguration, echoing a sentiment I heard everywhere on my campus listening tour, I called on the people of MIT to come together in new ways to marshal a bold, tenacious response to the run-away crisis of climate change.

I write with an update on how we’re bringing this vision to life.

This letter includes several significant announcements - including an accelerated search for faculty leaders and a very substantial commitment of MIT funds - so please read on.

A Record of MIT Leadership

Since the late Professor Jule Charney led a 1979 National Academy of Sciences report that foretold the likely risks of global warming, MIT researchers have made pioneering contributions in countless relevant fields. Today, more than 300 faculty, working with their students and research and teaching staff, are engaged in leading-edge work on climate issues. The Institute has also taken important steps to enhance climate education, expand public outreach on climate and decarbonize the campus.

But - as the community told me loud and clear - this moment demands a different order of speed, ambition, focus and scale.

The Climate Project at MIT

After extensive consultation with more than 150 faculty and senior researchers across the Institute - and building on the strengths of Fast Forward: MIT’s Climate Action Plan for the Decade , issued in 2021 - Vice Provost Richard Lester has led us in framing a new approach: the Climate Project at MIT.

Representing a compelling new strategy for accelerated, university-led innovation, the Climate Project at MIT will focus our community’s talent and resources on solving critical climate problems with all possible speed - and will connect us with a range of partners to deliver those technological, behavioral and policy solutions to the world.

As Richard explains in this MIT News 3Q , the Climate Project at MIT is still in its early stages; as it gains new leaders and new allies from academia, industry, philanthropy and government, it will continue to be shaped by their insight and expertise.

For now, we begin with a new structure and strategy for organizing the work. The Climate Project at MIT will consist of three interlocking elements:
  • The Climate Missions
  • The Climate Frontier projects
  • The Climate HQ

To learn more about these components, I encourage you to read this summary of the plan (PDF) .

Recruiting Leaders for the Six Climate Missions

The central focus will be six Climate Missions - each constituting a cross-disciplinary Institute-wide problem-solving community focused on a strategic area of the climate challenge:
  • 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’re now recruiting an MIT faculty leader for each of these missions - on an accelerated timeline. We welcome any interested faculty member to apply to be a Climate Mission leader or to nominate a colleague. Please submit your CV and statement of interest at climatesearch@mit.edu by February 22.

You can learn more about the role on the Climate Project’s preliminary webpage. All submissions will be treated as confidential.

A New Leadership Role, a Search Committee - and Significant MIT Resources

The Climate Project at MIT is gathering steam - and we will build its momentum with these three important steps.

1. Vice President for Climate

To match the prime importance of this work, we have created a new leadership role, reporting to me: Vice President for Climate (VPC). The VPC will oversee the Climate Project at MIT, take the lead on fundraising and implementation, and shape its strategic vision. We are opening the search now and welcome candidates from inside and outside MIT. You may submit your CV and statement of interest in the VPC role at climatesearch@mit.edu. A formal job description will be posted soon.

2. Climate Search Advisory Committee

To advise me in selecting the six mission leaders and the VPC, I have appointed the following faculty members to serve on the Climate Search Advisory Committee:
  • 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 the Institute and MIT Sloan

And finally: We will jumpstart the Climate Project at MIT with a commitment of $50 million in Institute resources - the largest direct investment the Institute has ever made in funding climate work, and just the beginning of a far more ambitious effort to raise the funds this extraordinary challenge demands. In addition, the Sloan School will contribute $25 million to endow a new climate policy center, to be formally announced in the coming days. Together, these funds will allow for early advances and express the seriousness of our intentions to potential partners around the world.

The Climate Project at MIT is ambitious, multifaceted and more complex than I could capture in a letter; I urge you to explore the summary of the plan (PDF) to see where you might fit. There will be a place for everyone, including all of our existing climate-involved DLCs. (And you might enjoy this brief video, which celebrates MIT’s distinctive gift for collaborative problem-solving on a grand scale.)

At last spring’s inauguration, I said I hoped that, a decade hence, all of us at MIT could take pride in having "helped lead a powerful cross-sector coalition and placed big bets on big solutions, to dramatically accelerate progress against climate change."

With your creativity, support and drive, we have every reason to hope that the Climate Project at MIT can make that aspiration real.

With enthusiasm and anticipation,

Sally Kornbluth