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Adaptation 2016


Question: What can be done to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change?
Submit proposals:
Rules: All entrants must agree to the Contest Rules and Terms of Use.
Deadline: Monday, May 23, 2016 at 19:59:59 PM Eastern Standard Time
Judging Criteria & Prizes: See below.


We know that there are significant potential impacts of climate change globally, and that the effects of climate change are already being experienced at the local level in communities around the world. Responding to these impacts in the short and long term presents a multitude of challenges and opportunities across various sectors, and requires critical attention from all stakeholders including government agencies, the private sector, civil society organizations, and individuals, in order to address these challenges and harness potential opportunities.

Every sector of society will face challenges related to climate change, and each sector, will need to take its own measures to adapt. The sector-specific responses will be essential to their sustainability, and those that are most innovative will likely be applied in other sectors. The infrastructure advancements that better resist high temperatures, variation of precipitation patterns and extreme weather events, will likely be applicable across infrastructure of many kinds. We, therefore, encourage the development of adaptation solutions and the invention of new technologies targeted at not only sector-specific challenges, but also individual or community level solutions which can improve adaptation and resilience locally. Moreover, we welcome original approaches to effectively disseminate information within the affected communities, educate them about how to adjust their livelihoods and practices to be more resilient and, whenever possible, embrace new opportunities. Considering that some of the most affected locations are in developing countries, sustainable and cost effective solutions can have greater chances of being implemented and thus generate greater impact.

Delving deeper, the inherent interconnected nature of human and natural systems implies that the effects of climate change in one area, or on one system, are likely to have cascading effects into other systems and geographies. As such, a multi-sectoral, systems approach is often needed to address climate impacts and adaptation strategies. This can sometimes feel overwhelming, but having a point of entry may help in identifying specific problems and solutions. In fact, there are many opportunities for specific points of entry to climate change adaptation, for example, using water or heat stress as a focal point in the adaptation discussion could offer a more tangible and relatable issue to address by local decision-makers and community-based planning efforts, while still appreciating the breadth of climate change and the multifaceted needs for adaptation.

Finally, the synergy effects within climate change solutions is something that warrants attention. One example is the food-energy-water nexus approach, which recognizes the interdependencies of water, energy, and food production in the context of climate change. It offers directions to systemize the interconnections to provide a framework for assessing the use of all resources and to manage trade-offs and synergies during adaptation process.

Recognizing the wide spectrum of impacts, sectors, and actors, this year we welcome proposals on all potential activities that address climate change adaptation. We encourage creative, systems-thinking approaches that build innovative solutions for adapting to climate change.  

Key Issues

‘Adaptation’ covers a wide array of issues beyond just developing practical and effective strategies for a particular context, such as planning, community engagement, financing, collaboration, mobilization, capacity building, and knowledge sharing. Some of the key issues we’d like to highlight for the 2016 contest include the following:

•       New approaches and strategies: Rising sea level, inundation, heat waves, drought and variable precipitation, extreme weather events, and the many other impacts of climate change will affect communities around the world. Therefore, we need to come up with innovative and low-cost approaches to diffuse climate-related risks and to develop new strategies that will not only enable us to cope with these impacts, but perhaps also take advantage of some of these changes to build more resilient communities. 

•       Identifying synergies and mainstreaming adaptation: Adaptive responses to climate change will be carried out in a context of competing priorities and constrained resources. In this regard, what synergies exist between specific adaptation initiatives and other developmental goals in areas like health, economic development, housing, water-energy-food security, education, and increased access to basic services? How can we integrate these synergies so that adaptation is supporting other social and economic development goals? And how can we better understand the food-energy-water nexus, and operationalize the nexus in policies and practices to address challenges?

•       Financing and partnerships: Adaptation to climate change requires resources, and this investment may be hard to justify against competing and more immediate pressures and threats. What sort of financing strategies can we look into to support adaptation? How can adaptation strategies attract adequate funding? What innovative partnerships can be forged to build adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities, including increased access to knowledge, information, and services for climate risk management?

•       Communication, education, participation and awareness (CEPA): The role of communication and awareness initiatives is critical in enabling adaptation to climate change, at various levels from policy and technical through to the general public. A free flow of information, appropriately packaged, greatly reduces resistance to change, especially with local politicians, and helps people to see the benefits of working together towards multiple social, environmental and economic objectives in the context of building a resilient future facing climate change.

•       Fostering collective decision-making: Responding to climate change in most local communities in large part means responding to risks. In order to do this effectively it is necessary to understand what those risks are for everyone in the community, and for all stakeholders to work together to determine appropriate short and long-term responses.

•       Paying attention to the robustness of proposed adaptation interventions: If enough attention is not paid to understand the multi-causal interactions that shape vulnerabilities to climate change, adaptation strategies could end up increasing vulnerability to climate change impacts rather than reducing them. For example, large costly infrastructural interventions such as ‘seawalls’ can have significant maladaptive outcomes to sectors such as tourism. 

Judging Criteria

Judges will be asked to evaluate proposals on the following criteria: feasibility, novelty, impact and presentation quality.  Winning proposals will be especially strong in at least one of the first three dimensions, and also well presented.  For details about the judging criteria, click here.

You can find the proposal template here, and contest schedule here.


Top proposals in each contest will be awarded...

Judges’ Choice Winner – Strongest overall
Popular Choice Winner – Received the most votes during the voting period
Impact Award – Largest impact and highly feasible
Novelty Award – Most innovative

The Judges’ and Popular Choice Winners will be invited to MIT to present their proposal, enter the Climate CoLab Winners Program and be eligible for the $10,000 Grand Prize. All award winners will receive wide recognition and visibility by the MIT Climate CoLab. 

All Finalists are asked to submit a 3-minute video outlining their proposal.  Videos will be featured on the MIT Climate CoLab website and Winners will show their videos at the conference.

If your proposal is included in a top global climate action plan, you will receive CoLab Points, which are redeemable for cash prizes.  

Resources for Proposal Authors

Global Climate Change Effects (Regional Impacts and Current & Future Trends), NASA

Adaptation Clearinghouse, Georgetown

Adaptation Knowledge Resources, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Adapting for a Green Economy, World Resources Institute

Designing Climate Change Adaptation Initiatives, A UNDP Toolkit for Practitioners

Preparedness for Climate Change Programme, Red Cross

Manual for local practitioners , CARE International

Building Resilience for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Agriculture Sector, OECD

Report on Adaptation Challenges in Pacific Island Countries, Secretariat for Pacific Regional Environment Programme

Evidence from the frontlines of climate change: loss and damage to communities despite coping and adaptation, UNU

Compilation of 300 Hands-On Field Activities for Community Based Adaptation?, The Center for Sustainable Development

A participatory web platform for the disaster risk reduction community,

Billion-Dollar Weather/Climate Disasters, NOAA

Climate-resilient development: A framework for understanding and addressing climate change, USAID

Adaptation Strategies Guide for Water Utilities, USEPA

Vision 2030: The resilience of water supply and sanitation in the face of climate change, WHO

The National Climate Assessment, Chapter 28: Adaptation. US Global Change Research Program (focus is on US)

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Working Group II, Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (Chapters 14-17 focus on adaptation)

Climate change adaptation website hosted by UNEP, a resource with links to reports, publications, and networks including the Global Adaptation Network

100 Resilient Cities Program, Rockefeller Foundation

The CityStrength Diagnostic – Resilient Cities Program, World Bank Group

The Decision Tree for Climate Change Risk Management in Water Resources Planning and Project Design, World Bank Group