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MIT Better World

By Kris Willcox

As in other climate-vulnerable regions, residents face urgent questions about the future: Should they attempt to relocate? Would it be better to stay and adapt? What resources are available to guide and support their decisions?

Such questions motivate CREWSnet (the Climate Resilience Early Warning System Network), a groundbreaking collaboration between MIT and Bangladesh-based global nonprofit BRAC. CREWSnet is one of five flagship projects chosen for support in 2022 through MIT’s Climate Grand Challenges initiative.

According to Deborah Campbell, MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s Climate Change Initiative co-lead and CREWSnet’s executive director, “the project is empowering underserved communities by giving them the tools they need to interpret local risk, minimize loss, and plan for their futures.” One example is the use of the “downscaling” approach—which provides climate variables at the resolution needed to assess climate change impacts at regional and local scales—described by Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) Emeritus Professor Kerry Emanuel ’76, PhD ’78 and EAPS Principal Research Scientist Sai Ravela. The approach simulates tropical cyclone tracks through Bangladesh, under various climate scenarios to assess wind, rainfall, storm surges, waves, and rainfall-driven flood inundation to advance our broader understanding of cyclone-induced physical risk.

Other tools include cutting-edge climate models developed by researcher group of  CREWSnet co-lead Elfatih Eltahir ScD ’93, the H.M. King Bhumibol Professor of hydrology and climate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and researchers at the MIT Center for Global Change Science; insights and recommendations from development economists at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab; and proactive, integrated decision support tools for local communities and government agencies developed by the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Systems Group at Lincoln Laboratory.

John Aldridge, CREWSnet co-lead and associate leader of the HADR Systems Group, notes that CREWSnet and other MIT Climate Grand Challenges projects represent “the perfect opportunity to synthesize together MIT’s strengths in climate science, impact modeling, and decision support systems” to solve complex and urgent climate challenges.