CLIMATE

Solving Climate | Humanistic Perspectives from MIT
 

In this ongoing series, MIT faculty, students, and alumni in the humanistic fields share ideas and research that are significant for solving the economic, political, ethical, and cultural dimensions of climate change.

Also visit
Fast Foward: MIT's Climate Action Plan

MIT Council on an Uncertain Human Future



 


Kieran Setiya
Professor of Philosophy
 

Why do some people call climate change an “existential threat”?

 

What does an “existential threat” really mean, and why are so many people in positions of responsibility now using this phrase? Kieran Setiya, an MIT professor of philosophy who co-teaches "The Ethics of Climate Change," offers a three-part response.  Commentary



 


John D. Sutter 

Fellow, Knight Science Journalism Program 

 

Stop blaming yourself for the climate crisis.

 

Sutter, a Fellow in our KSJ Journalism program writes, "The narrative must shift from one of individual responsibility — if I turn off this lightbulb, I'm saving the planet — to one of governmental and corporate accountability. In the United States, this means the voting public must force Congress to enact sweeping climate legislation." Commentary at CNN

 



 


Anne McCants
Professor of History, Director, MIT Concourse Program
 

How, in the nadir of the Little Ice Age, did the Dutch generate a Golden Age?
 

"History shows that not everywhere fares equally poorly when faced with climatic stresses. Open-access societies — ones that tolerate a diversity of views and do not restrict agency to a preordained elite — have proved more innovative and resilient than less-open ones." For example: the 17th century Dutch Republic.  Commentary
 



 


Sami Grover 

Undark Magazine, Knight Science Journalism 

 

Opinion: The messy truth about carbon footprints
"We are not each on an individual journey to slash our footprint to zero. We are on a collective mission to shift the only true footprint that matters: that of society as a whole."
Commentary at Undark


 



 


Kieran Setiya

Professor of Philosophy

The ethics of climate change
 

"Almost anyone engaged with global issues of human well-being, the distribution of resources, or the future of society is doing moral philosophy. Even the most technocratic assessment of costs and benefits makes assumptions about the value of human life and the demands of justice."  Commentary

 


 


Parrish Bergquist '19
MIT PhD in Political Science; post-doctoral Associate, Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

 

The significance of civic opinion

My research examines public opinion about the environment and climate change, policy responsiveness to public opinion, and the implications of political polarization for environmental policy in the American states. I focus on identifying the levers for influencing policy, engaging people in policy change, and designing effective climate policies. Commentary



 


Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab | J-PAL
 

Toward evidence-informed climate policy

 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the connections between human and planetary health are clearer than ever. J-PAL generates evidence to reduce climate damage, build more climate-resilient societies, and help leaders choose effective programs to combat climate change.  (Image: Produce vendor in Lahore, India, in smog)  Commentary



 


Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab
J-PAL North America

An agenda for climate change research in North America
 

Poverty and climate change issues are closely related. In this commentary you'll find a overview of J-PAL North America's contributions to the evidence base in environment, energy, and climate and a look at its agenda for further climate research in North America. (US Air Force Image: Overflying a flooded region)  Commentary

 


Comparative Media Studies/Writing
CMS.375 / Reading Climate Through Media

In a humanities media class, MIT students gain insights and skills to increase support for effective climate policy.

 

In CMS.375 students explore how climate is construed in the contemporary media in order to gain a better understanding of how views of climate change are shaped and received in the public sphere. And, they learn how to craft effective climate stories and messages themselves.  Story

 


Thiago Medalgia

Knight Science Journalism Fellow, 2020
 

Science communications for a world in crisis

"My vision has broadened to include a more human perspective of climate change: This is about working to reconnect people with the reality of the natural world, which includes ourselves. We too are nature."  Commentary

 


Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab
MIT Department of Economics

J-PAL launches King Climate Action Initiative

With a founding $25M gift from King Philanthropies, the King Climate Action Initiative at J-PAL will collaborate with leaders in government, NGOs, the private sector and scientists worldwide to design, pilot, evaluate, and scale technological and policy innovations in four areas: mitigating carbon emissions; reducing pollution; adapting to climate change; and shifting toward cleaner, affordable sources of energy. The initiative aims to improve the lives of 25 million people over the next decade.
Story | About K-CAI at J-PAL



Anthropology, History, and EAPS
 

Climate change linked to rise and fall of medieval nomadic empires.

Paleoclimatology provides important context for examining the activities of past human societies. Meanwhile, present-day Mongolia is experiencing devastating droughts and winter weather as a result of global climate change. "Merging new climate data with the historical understanding of a place helps to put in perspective the catastrophic scale of climate change today,” said Anthropologist Manduhai Buyandelger. “For instance, the heavy snowfalls in Mongolia in recent decades are the harshest in known history.”
Story

 


 



 


 


Amy Moran-Thomas 
MIT Associate Professor of Anthropology


On planetary change and human health

"During her research in Belize, Moran-Thomas noted that some people with diabetes, when talking about the impact of the diabetes epidemic, would invoke Hurricane Hattie (which ravaged their country in 1961) as a metaphor for the kinds of slow health changes that can suddenly erupt into a full-blown crisis. She appreciated their apt metaphor: 'In many ways,' she says, 'the chronic wear on both the planet and on people is accumulating like a gathering storm.'"
Story
 


Clare Balboni

3M Career Development Assistant Professor of Environmental Economics
 

On Enviromental Economics and Policy 

"Economic models and methods can enhance our understanding of how to balance the imperative for continued growth in prosperity — particularly for the world’s poorest — with the need to mitigate the environmental externalities that such growth creates."
Commentary



Nadia Christidi

PhD candidate, HASTS Program (History; Anthropology; Science, Technology, and Society)
 

Imaginative Capacities: The Arts & the Future of Water

 

Christidi's research focuses on three cities and the role that the arts play in the ability of planning institutions to imagine and plan for possible futures. "As climate change gets underway, we’re seeing a lot more emphasis on adaptation, and imagination is key to adapting to a set of totally different circumstances," she says. "This belief has led me to explore the 'imaginative capacities' of planning institutions, the impact of popular culture imaginaries on our preparations for the future, and the role that creative practitioners can play in expanding our imaginative possibilities."
Commentary
 



Caroline White-Nockleby
PhD candiate, HASTS Program (History; Anthropology; Science, Technology, and Society)

 

On the socio-environmental complexities of renewable energy

"Renewable energy must be collected, stored, and transported; it requires financing, metals extraction, and the processing of decommissioned materials. Energy access, mining, and waste deposition are material, geographically situated dynamics. Not everyone stands to benefit equally from renewable energy's potentials, and not everyone will be equally exposed to its socioenvironmental impacts."
Commentary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



MIT SHASS Community

 

Keeping humanity central to solving climate change

 

MIT scholars in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences are helping to solve the economic, cultural, political and policy dimensions of the world's energy and climate challenges. 
Story by Kelley Travers, MIT Energy Futures magazine 

 

 

 

 


MIT Open Courseware

 

A directory of 20+ free, climate-related humanistic classes at MIT
 

Here you will find courses in economics, philosophy, public policy, writing, anthropology, and other fields that provide key perspectives for understanding climate change — and alleviating its impacts.

Gallery of OCW Humanistic Climate Courses

 

 

 

 

 

 


Forthcoming
New commentaries continue. If you would like to discuss an idea for this series, please contact: shass-comm@mit.edu. 

 

 

MIT Climate Resources

 

Fast Forward
MIT's Climate Action Plan for the Decade


MIT Climate

 

The MIT Council on an Uncertain Human Future
 

MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative

 

MIT Energy Inititiatve | Renewable Energy Sources

 

MIT Dept of Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Science | Climate Research

 


Series prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Office of the Dean
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Series Editor/Designer: Emily Hiestand
Consulting Editor: Kathryn O'Neill
April 2020  — Present