- Eduardo Rivera
Addressing climate and sustainability
In May 2021, MIT released its new plan for action to address the world’s accelerating climate crisis. The plan, titled “Fast Forward: MIT’s Climate Action Plan for the Decade,” includes a myriad of new goals, initiatives, and expansion of existing programs to bring the Institute’s expertise to bear on this critical global issue. The plan established a Carbon Footprint Working Group with the goal of advising on how best to continuously decarbonize campus operations and was tasked to begin developing a roadmap to decarbonization by 2050. One of the group's activities is to develop and publish a carbon offset strategy for MIT-sponsored travel.
A mission to empower
At MISTI, we are fully aware of the challenges that climate change and the new Institute plan present to us. MISTI’s mission is to empower MIT students and faculty to advance knowledge and solve the world’s great challenges by connecting them with researchers, companies, and other partners worldwide. To fulfill our mission, travel is fundamental. Therefore, greenhouse gas emissions that result from our educational activities (scope 3 emissions) are an inevitable externality of MISTI’s activities. As we work with the Institute to address long-term strategies to offset GHG emissions, we believe it is necessary to state what characterizes MISTI travel:
- Our students travel for relatively long periods. Most internships last between 10 and 12 weeks, and IAP travel lasts around four weeks. Travel for shorter periods is not common at MISTI.
- Around 20% of our students work on projects in the areas of sustainability and climate change.
- The global south faces the most dire impacts of global warming. As the plan calls for environmental justice, it is important to mention that around 40% of our students travel to economically developing countries, allowing them to learn about and potentially contribute to the challenges there.
- MISTI is developing a pilot project to require students to calculate the carbon footprint of their travel, providing them with resources on campus to learn more and consider options for offsetting.
Moreover, we believe that MISTI is well-positioned to make positive contributions toward addressing the climate emergency:
- MISTI is a unique place to educate MIT students on the global challenge of climate change: the new Fast Forward plan calls to “educate future generations of leaders, problem solvers, and citizens.” Our organization offers co-curricular opportunities to prepare students as leaders and citizens who will better understand the interconnected, global nature of the challenge.
- The plan looks to “Infuse climate and sustainability learning opportunities throughout the curricula” and “deepen humanistic understanding of the climate crisis.” MISTI students return to MIT with new disciplinary, global, and country-specific knowledge. With MISTI support, they are prepared to utilize what they learn in future coursework, research, and campus conversations, including providing insight into sustainability and climate topics from a more global perspective.
- Students from all five Schools participate in MISTI every year. They come together for preparation sessions, share their experiences while in-country, and often become good friends. In all these stages, MISTI can help them reflect on their activities' impact and sustainability, leading to cross-disciplinary dialogue across a diverse set of students.
- The new plan includes “a commitment to investigate the essential dynamics of global warming and its impacts, increasing efforts toward more precise predictions, and advocating for science-based climate policies and increased funding for climate research.” The MIT research community benefits from MISTI’s network of Global Seed Funds partners, and many projects are in sustainability and climate research.