Wikiclimate: crowdsourcing’s place in a Paris deal

World’s citizens invited to submit ideas in climate action contest to influence negotiators ahead of December summit

Crowds stand in awe of a fireworks show at Paris' Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day 2014 (Flickr/ Blakeley Frederic)

Crowds stand in awe of a fireworks show at Paris’ Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day 2014 (Flickr/ Blakeley Frederic)

By Alex Pashley

Wikipedia’s rise shows the potential of collaboration between the world’s now 3 billion internet users

And a US university research centre now thinks the free Internet encyclopaedia’s model applies in a global climate deal.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Climate CoLab has launched a contest giving people the chance to flex their grey matter on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the likes of US, India and China.

Contributors can join up proposals from the six regions and test the resulting pact’s power in pinning down global warming.

“This is not just a job for a few experts and politicians,” Thomas Malone, director of MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence and top investigator at the CoLab said in a statement.

“Our goal is to open up the elite conference rooms and meeting halls where climate strategies are developed today and bring that discussion out into the world so that anyone with a good idea can contribute,” he said.

Judged by leading experts from the likes of MIT, the State Department and World Bank, the contest could provide the “virtual Paris” secretary of state John Kerry recently called for, as he pushes for communities, universities and schools to play a greater role in climate action.

“There are many examples of massive numbers of people sucessfully working together online on very complicated projects. Take Wikipedia and Linux, for example,” said Laur Fisher, the project manager for the Climate CoLab.

The Climate CoLab has set up past competitions on specific questions from energy supply to waste management. But this initiative marks a sharp shift in breadth.

“For the first time in history, there is now a highly-accessible, democratic, solutions-based platform that allows people across the globe to combine their best ideas,” Malone added.

Winners will present their plans at the MIT’s Solve Conference convening tech gurus and philanthropists this autumn, and will split a $10,000 prize.

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