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Create an online platform for crowds to score community risk and readiness, spur local discussion, and swap adaptation strategies.



The Climate Place Project changes the cognitive frame around the wicked problem of climate change by demonstrating that the risks are personal, local and financial, and solutions are at hand. Our project seeks to trigger a social tipping point by empowering crowds to assess and score climate risk and readiness (RnR) of any community and collectively develop local adaptation and mitigation strategies with global impact.

The project empowers communities, schools, experts and individuals to create local climate knowledge and solutions. We propose 6 action steps that may be separately pursued but are best integrated through a common platform.

  1. Establish a platform for sharing place-based data, analyses and reports.
  2. In cooperation with European research partners, develop a simple methodology for citizen researchers to assess community capacity to adapt to change and mitigate the causes. Partner ESRI’s web mapping interface will allow users to input crowdsourced data.
  3. Create a moderated forum for registered users to discuss RnR of any community.
  4. Enable citizens and experts to determine climate-smart scores, 1-100, for communities based on 10 risk and readiness factors.
  5. Crowdsource a clearinghouse of local climate-smart resources and solutions.
  6. Deploy social media to build support.


Our core team of scientists, resilience experts, sociologists and communicators proposes to develop a social platform that resembles a hybrid of Flixster, Wikipedia and the Climate Co-Lab. We will invite businesses to license climate-smart scores for due diligence in financial transactions.

A 2015 Pew survey ranks global warming #22 among 23 public policy priorities.[i] Americans regard the issue as distant, uncertain, and not relevant to the well-being of their families. We propose to shift attitudes and behavior by literally bringing climate reality home. We see climate empowerment as a function of hope and concern, personal motivation, financial relevance, actionable science, and community will.

What actions do you propose?

The power of crowds and the virtual technologies that define our era must be harnessed to motivate, engage, and empower a critical mass of Americans where they live. The Climate Place Project will establish a platform at the Climate.Place domain to gather, share and discuss place-based impacts and risks of climate change as well as sensible adaptation and mitigation strategies. Registered users at Climate.Place will collectively assess and score climate risk and readiness (RnR) of any community, starting in the United States. Registered users also will be able to exchange local solutions that enable communities, neighborhoods and households to increase their climate-smart scores. Climate.Place will serve as an integrated platform for Americans to understand, discuss and resolve climate challenges in the context of their home place.

Key details of our action plan include:

WhoThe Climate Place Project is a diverse, ad hoc team of scientists, resilience experts, sociologists, mappers, educators and communicators, ranging from community-level teachers in the U.S. to international researchers in three nations.  CPP has developed this proposal as the nucleus of a broader partnership that we seek to mobilize to implement this ambitious concept. If successfully implemented, the “who” will include thousands of citizens, students and communities across North American and beyond.

What: Develop methods and a social platform for crowds to assess and score climate change risk and readiness, or RnR, in the places where people live.

Where: A social platform will be established at the domain Climate.Place.  The platform initially will focus on the United States, but our ambition is to make it internationally available.

When: We have developed an ambitious timeline, below, to build a broad and diverse partnership capable of launching an interactive social platform and initiating six action items by September 2016.

Why: We propose to shift attitudes and behavior by literally bringing climate reality home, demonstrating that climate change risks are personal, local and immediate and that solutions are at hand. We seek to facilitate constructive local conversations, enable citizens to work together, create incentives to act, and empower communities to embrace climate solutions that minimize the causes and negative impacts of a warming planet.

How:  We propose six integrated action steps outlined above and described in detail below.

Action 1: Establish a platform for sharing place-based data, analysis and reports

The Climate.Place platform will provide a real-time and archived compendium of scientific research, media coverage, and downscaled climate projections relevant to place-based risk and readiness. Research, analysis and reports will be tagged in two ways: by region and by climate risk and readiness factor. Research summaries or news reports will be posted along with a citation or link to the original source. A forum alongside the posts will allow registered users to comment and discuss.

A map interface will share geospatial data that depict indicators of risk and readiness at the finest possible scale, which might be region, watershed, county, zip code or address.  An interactive map will allow users to turn data layers on and off as a tool to inform their assessments and scoring process.

Our partners at ESRI have offered to provide an ArcGIS Online subscription account and build a prototype of a modern mapping site if this proposal moves forward to implementation. The mapping site would include access to a variety of existing data layers, including public data available through NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, and the ability to share interactive maps with users on desktop, web, and mobile devices. The platform would allow users to input crowdsourced data developed under Action 2.

Action 2: Provide a simple methodology for citizen researchers to assess and score community adaptive capacity.

The geophysical sciences provide increasingly sophisticated climate models downscaled to the sub-regional scale, which makes it possible to project local exposure to changing heat, precipitation and extreme weather trends. However, the social sciences have not yet produced comprehensive data sets for community will and capacity to anticipate and adapt to climate change impacts and reduce the causes of a warming planet.

There are 40,000 local government units (municipalities, counties, townships) in the United States. The most feasible way to assess community adaptive capacity may be crowdsourcing by citizens, including schools, community groups, and individuals, guided by our team of experts.  Our framework for collective engagement would provide a user-friendly methodology for collecting community-level data, such as:

Community Preparedness Scores: Researchers at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, the University of Twente in The Netherlands, and Columbia University have developed methodologies for scoring community preparedness in Europe.[ii] [iii]

Two of these researchers, Oliver Heidrich and Diana Reckien, have joined the Climate Place Project to adapt and apply the methodology in the United States through a crowdsourcing platform. This methodology will be accessible to schools, community groups, and individuals. Creating a national database will require a small army of citizens willing to complete the checklist.

Assessments of community preparedness will evaluate whether local communities -- either through government, non-government sectors or both in collaboration -- have assessed vulnerability to climate change, developed adaptation and/or mitigation plans, begun to implement plans, and evaluate progress.

In addition to a basic PDCA assessment (plan–do–check–adjust), crowdsourced assessments of community preparedness may include independent evaluations of key RnR factors, including infrastructure vulnerability and water, food and energy security

Infrastructure Vulnerability:  Most U.S. communities have not formally assessed the climate-related vulnerability of infrastructure. We seek to partner with civil engineers, planners, and other infrastructure experts, in collaboration with citizen researchers to develop an approximate measure of local infrastructure readiness.

Local food, water, and energy security:  Citizen researchers complete a simple survey to indicate reliable access to basic necessities not highly dependent upon long-distance travel or extensive infrastructure. Indicators might include vitality and diversity of local farms, availability of arable land, dependence upon fossil fuel energy, local renewable energy production, groundwater supplies and watershed health.

Team members include secondary and post-secondary teachers in Massachusetts and Montana who will help develop the community preparedness assessment methodology and beta test the research instrument in the field.

We intend to build upon our connections with the Teachers College, Columbia University, to apply lessons learned from their "Greenify Network" about using the power of community-based interactions and game mechanics in our crowdsourcing platform.[iv]

Our European research partners are keen to apply this crowdsourcing approach in a European context. Conversely, we would like to test the validity of the citizen research results by enlisting professional research teams to apply Heidrich and Reckien, et al, methods through parallel research in select communities.

Action 3: Create a moderated forum for registered users to discuss risk and readiness for any community in the United States.

Users will be classified in one of several member categories, similar to the MIT Climate Co-Lab permission groups or the role-based access control utilized by Wikipedia.  The default role of a new registrant is member. A core group of administrators will have authority to accredit climate scientists, specialists and experienced practitioners as experts. Moderators will manage the forum and coordinate discussions.

An administrator, moderator or expert may initiate an assessment forum for a community. Any registered user may post assessment comments under any of the 10 risk and readiness categories. Administrators, moderators and experts will have the ability to collaboratively write and edit summaries for each community assessment. While an assessment may note disagreements among experts, administrators have final editorial control.

The 10 risk and readiness factors applicable to any community include:

Risk Factors

  1. Regional climate projections
  2. Extreme weather trends and forecasts
  3. Exposure to natural hazards
  4. Infrastructure vulnerability
  5. Public health and safety


Readiness Factors

  1. Community preparedness and adaptive capacity
  2. Water, food and energy security
  3. Ecological integrity
  4. Economic resilience
  5. Transportation options


Among the assumptions that underlie the selection of these factors, we believe that community or household measures that reduce dependence upon fossil fuels are smart adaptation strategies as well as critical mitigation measures.

Action 4: Determine climate-smart scores for communities based on ten risk and readiness factors.

Once a summary assessment has been posted for a community, then registered users may post a climate-smart score from 1 to 100 along with an opportunity to reinforce their score with comments. Users are likely to weigh each factor differently, even if they agree with the assessment summary. Although informed by the best available science, risk and readiness scores are inherently subjective. The average of member scores and expert scores will both be displayed alongside the summary narrative assessments. This would be analogous to the “critic score” and “user score” displayed on Flixster’s movie review site.

Within any community, some neighborhoods or households may be more climate-smart than others. While a range of intra-community scores could conceivably be determined through a similar process, this may be beyond the feasible scope of this project. Instead, experts’ climate-smart scores could be licensed to other business or organizations who wish to add a higher degree of spatial resolution for commercial or social purposes.

Action 5: Crowdsource a clearinghouse of local climate-smart resources and solutions

Registered users will be invited to post information and links to businesses, organizations, strategies and other resources to help users, families and communities increase readiness, reduce climate change risk, and improve climate-smart scores. The solutions clearinghouse will be searchable by topic and geography.

Action 6: Deploy social media and crowdfunding to build support

We will develop an integrated social media strategy to engage diverse stakeholders, particularly younger people. The base of engagement and support could be expanded through crowdfunding campaigns.

Through these six actions, our objective is to shift the balance of public opinion, instill a sense of urgency, establish networks within and between communities, and promote a bit of competitive zeal. We will enable open discussion about tangible, personal risks of inaction and the positive benefits of climate solutions. We will create easy-to-grasp data products predicated on robust data sets. We will embed climate risk and readiness in families’ fundamental decisions about where to live and how to reduce personal vulnerability in a time of climate disruption. We will reward communities that are addressing the issue, and call out communities that aren’t. Ultimately, we seek to instill a can-do American attitude that reinvigorates global leadership.

We also believe that robust risk and readiness scores for communities, neighborhoods and households will have commercial value for individuals and businesses who seek to conduct due diligence in financial transactions.  This may include homebuyers, real estate brokers, bond raters, mortgage lenders, insurance companies, and government agencies.

Who will take these actions?

This project is initiated by Climate Realty LLC, recently formed to help Americans select climate-smart homes. Climate Realty aims to license climate-smart scores produced through the Climate Place Project for commercial purposes. Climate Realty is led by a team of climate scientists, social scientists, adaptation experts, and green builders.

The Climate Place Project team includes others unaffiliated with Climate Realty. It is our intention to develop the Climate Place Project as a separate entity. We believe the MIT Climate Co-Lab is an ideal forum to develop this partnership.

We have initiated the project by establishing an online forum as described in Action 1, launching in July 2015. Subsequent steps will require additional partners and financial resources.

Once off the ground, the project may be owned and managed either as a non-profit foundation, similar to the Wikipedia Foundation, or as a cooperative owned collectively by engaged experts.

Action will be taken by:

  • Volunteers
  • Experts and practitioners in climate sciences, adaptation and mitigation
  • Citizen researchers, including schools, community groups and individuals
  • Academic research partners
  • Operational staff


Similar to Wikipedia, most of our contributors will be volunteers. Wikipedia has engaged millions of volunteers, recognizing eight primary motivations:  values, social, understanding, career, protective, enhancement, ideology and fun.[v]  Our base of contributors would likely be from within the 16% of Americans who are alarmed by the prospect of accelerating climate change, as reported by Yale’s Six Americas Report.[vi]

Higher responsibility and training will be provided to qualified specialists, reviewers and trustees. Co-op membership or other types of compensation will be considered for these experts. A cooperative structure would address the problem of incentives and accountability for participants, as a credible climate-smart scoring methodology could generate significant revenues and profits.

Where will these actions be taken?

This project will be initiated in the United States of America, where the need to engage citizens in climate change realities and solutions is arguably most urgent. If successful, we anticipate expanding the project to Europe and other nations. There is the potential to assess community-specific climate Risk and Readiness (RnR) assessments anyplace in the world, utilizing social platforms to assess preparedness and share solutions.

How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?

By changing the way Americans think and talk about climate change, we hope to tip public opinion, personal behavior and political will to strengthen mitigation and adaptation measures at multiple scales: household, community, state, nation, and world.  The more people think and talk about climate change impacts and solutions, especially in ways that are personal and local, the greater the likelihood that positive action will be taken.

A grassroots program to develop place-specific assessments, coupled with the opportunity to view crowdsourced data in real time, will empower citizens and communities to engage in constructive conversations and work to improve their community's climate-smart score.

We seek to trigger the psychology of social proof, as described by behavioral psychologist Robert Cialdini and popularized by entrepreneur Alex Laskey, to shift attitudes and behavior in homes and communities.[vii]

We have no way to quantify how much these social changes might reduce emissions.

What are other key benefits?

Social media and the engagement of crowds command a huge amount of people’s time in the U.S., often with little social benefit. Harnessing these technologies to tackle the critical issue of climate change at the community level may strengthen social cohesion. A personal sense of empowerment can be a powerful psychological antidote to the despair that will likely grow with climate disruption. Through involving and expanding citizen-based grass roots data collection and assessment efforts, the Climate Place Project will broaden the knowledge base of climate change impacts and therefore grow the ranks of the 16% who currently care enough to take action.

This project will inform researchers and policymakers about about adaptation and mitigation opportunities that participants identify. The power of crowdsourcing in strategic decision making will have an impact well beyond climate change issues, with potential application of social platforms in transport, infrastructure, and education.

What are the proposal’s costs?

We estimate the start-up costs for the first two years will be $600,000 for a small staff, initial operations, and development of a sophisticated online platform.

The primary negative effect of the Climate Place Project, if it’s successful, is that it might spur mass migration from places that don’t score well as climate-smart communities.  While we anticipate that the current trend of net migration to vulnerable places like southern Florida and the desert Southwest will and probably should be reversed, we need to guard against precipitating actions that are driven by a sense of doom or panic. To avoid this scenario, we want to emphasize ways that a community or family can improve climate readiness.  The message should emphasize hope as much as it illuminates the risks and negative impacts of a warming world.

Time line

We intend to launch an interactive social platform and initiate all six action items in Year One (by September 2016).

By February 2016: Utilize the MIT Climate Co-Lab to test the concept, refine the plan, and build support. Launch Climate.Place as a forum to share place-based information about risk and readiness. Develop broad-based partnerships across industries and disciplines, including media, universities and schools, nonprofits, communities and businesses. Determine appropriate organizational structure. Raise operating funds in the U.S. through partnerships, philanthropy, mission-related investment, or loans. Submit a proposal to the European Union to extend the project to Europe.

By September 2016: Expand Climate.Place to crowdscore place and conduct pilot project in 50 select communities. Build a core group of climate experts. Publicize project through traditional and social media. Recruit citizen researchers, nonprofits and schools to beta test methodology in 100 communities. Develop computational capacity utilizing multiple geospatial layers as visual, quantifiable indicators of risk and readiness.

Year 2: Engage citizen researchers to complete community readiness surveys in at least 1,000 communities. Initiate RnR assessment scores for at least 2,000 U.S. communities.  Expand the project to Canada and Europe.

Year 3: Complete assessments for every municipality, township or county in the U.S. Highlight communities that are improving their climate-smart score through mitigation and adaptation strategies.  Develop markets for this information and license trademarked assessments and scores to inform real estate, bonding, mortgage and insurance markets.  Expand the project beyond North America and Europe.

Year 4 and Beyond: Reward communities that are improving climate readiness by encouraging governments, philanthropic organizations and businesses to invest resources in communities' adaptation and mitigation implementation strategies.

Related proposals

Break conversation out of its shell proposes to create a clearinghouse for climate information resources. The Climate Place Project could collaborate to implement this proposal's media outreach strategy.

Sunk Investment Map: Show the Personal Property Impacts of Climate Change provides an online map at to help people understand flood risks that climate change poses to their homes and businesses.

The world according to CLIVE (CoastaL Impact Visualization Environment) allows citizens to visualize local impact scenarios.

HEAT's Whose Home is wasting more energy, yours or your neighbours? provides an important measure of climate-smart households and employs social proof to spur energy efficiency.

GreenUp - Engaging communities to build green & resilient cities  establishes a clearinghouse of information on best management practices in stormwater management and green infrastructure, starting with pilot projects in U.S. and Indian cities.



[2] Heidrich O, et al (2013) Assessment of the climate preparedness of 30 urban areas in the UK. Climatic Change 120(4):771–784. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0846-9

[3] Reckien, D, et al (2014) Climate change response in Europe: what’s the reality? Analysis of adaptation and mitigation plans from 200 urban areas in 11 countries. Climatic Change 122:331–340. doi: 10.1007/s10584-013-0846-9