The Climate Impact Innovation Fund will support early stages of climate change research.
Alex Ye and Isabel Maney
Zoe Berg, photo editor
Over the next three decades, Yale will channel $15 million in funding to early-stage projects aimed at addressing climate change.
The Climate Impact Innovation Fund, which was announced late last month by University officials, was funded by anonymous donors. It will operate as part of the Planetary Solutions Project, a university-wide initiative established in December 2020 that aims to “unite institutional leaders and academic experts” to address environmental problems caused by human activities. The Planetary Solutions project has solicited an initial round of new research proposals, which will be funded primarily by the Climate Impact Innovation Fund.
“The thing is, we have tremendous intellectual resources,” Casey Pickett, Project Director of Planetary Solutions, told The News. “We have the ability to bring together people from all over the world in positions of expertise and influence. We have this most magical thing of all these passionate, brilliant, productive people, many of whom are genuinely interested in finding ways to turn their intellectual firepower towards the issues they see, the planetary issues.
The fund focuses on financing early-stage projects, particularly those aimed at reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, improving economic climate models that can be used to develop policy, and protecting human health. rapid changes in climate, Pickett said.
The project plans to solicit proposals each year. Depending on the application form, grant amounts range from $15,000 to $80,000 and will fund 12 or more proposals, depending on the number and quality of applications. In total, the program expects to provide more than $500,000 in funding for the first round of proposals.
According to Indy Burke, dean of the Yale School of the Environment, the fund will provide support to faculty and students at the School of the Environment who are working on solutions related to all aspects of climate change, from carbon capture to forest restoration through urban development.
“As with all things innovation, it’s probably fair to expect that a lot of these things won’t work,” Pickett says. “But you have a wide funnel to grab all the great ideas, and then some end up making their way into the world and having a huge impact. That’s the idea.”
Kai Chen, assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health and director of research at the Yale Center on Climate Change and Public Health, stressed the importance for Yale to devote more resources to climate research. He explained that current funding for climate research, particularly research regarding the intersections of climate change and health, is limited, despite a growing consensus among scientists that climate change is the “biggest challenge public health” of the 21st century.
Chen added that climate change research is inherently interdisciplinary, drawing on knowledge from many different fields.
“Understanding the health impacts of climate change…requires multidisciplinary approaches that include atmospheric science, biostatistics, environmental science, public health, mathematical modeling, and social science,” Chen wrote in an email to the News. “Yale has exceptional and diverse faculty in these multiple disciplines. With funding like the new Innovation Fund for Climate Impact, collaborating with these world-class professors at Yale can bring innovative interdisciplinary research to fight climate change.
Robert Dubrow, a professor at the Yale School of Public Health and faculty director at the Yale Center on Climate Change and Public Health, considered the decision to spend the fund over the next 30 years wise, pointing out that climate change issues and biodiversity loss must be “addressed with the utmost urgency”.
Dubrow praised the University for not only creating the Planetary Solutions Project, but also for “following up” with substantial fundraising.
“The Planetary Solutions Project focuses on the two major existential crises of our time – climate change and biodiversity loss – which are intertwined,” Dubrow wrote in an email to the News. “If we haven’t achieved net zero carbon emissions and a sustainable future by 2052, we and much of the rest of life on Earth will face cataclysms, not just crises. ”
Burke also noted that Yale can play a “vital role” in promoting sustainable solutions, especially when working in partnership with other universities, nongovernmental organizations or industry sectors. She added that solutions to climate change require not only science, but also the development of effective policies.
“We also need the participation of political analysts, historians, sociologists, communications specialists, community and political leaders and many others to have any chance of success,” Burke wrote. “It’s also where Yale – not only with our expertise on campus, but with our remarkable network of alumni around the world – can play a vital role in helping to develop and implement these technologies, policies and cost-effective clean energy solutions with success.”
Applicants to the fund should be notified by March 15.