Frequently Asked Questions
Does the Lorenz Center’s research aspire to provide support for or comment on specific climate policy agendas?
The founders of the Lorenz Center understand that all sides of the climate policy debate have historically used and will likely continue to use climate science to support or criticize specific policy agendas. The center is devoted to fundamental scientific research and will assiduously steer clear of policy debates in its work, and will indeed actively disassociate itself from all efforts to characterize the center’s work as supporting climate policy positions of any kind.
What is the relationship between the Lorenz Center and MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS)?
EAPS is providing the initial home for the Lorenz Center, and we expect close interactions with all of its programs. However, as with other interdisciplinary labs and programs at MIT (e.g., Computational and Systems Biology), the Lorenz Center is not part of a department. Students working in or with the Lorenz Center will obtain degrees in their home departments, under the direction of faculty advisors affiliated with the Lorenz Center. Administratively, we expect that the Lorenz Center will be an entity within MIT’s School of Science.
How will the Lorenz Center fund itself?
We are seeking an endowment to fund postdoctoral and student fellowships, visiting scientists, and supporting programs.
What happens if private donors have a political agenda?
The Lorenz Center will be devoted to fundamental science, and will accept funding only from sources that wish to support that mission.
How large will the Lorenz Center be?
Within the first few years we’d like to support about a half-dozen postdocs, and soon after a similar number of graduate students. Added to this we expect a steady flux of visiting scientists, about two at any particular time. We may then grow, but the group will always be small enough so that collegial interaction will occur on a daily basis.
Could the Lorenz Center become a “virtual center,” spread throughout MIT?
No. Our intention is to foster fundamental discovery by bringing a diverse group of scientists into close daily contact with one another.
Since MIT is already a leader in fundamental climate science, why must you create the Lorenz Center?
Because we can do better. Not by throwing more money at the problem, but by making the field more attractive to outstanding young scientists with a wide range of disciplinary skills.
If this is the best way to make progress in climate science why haven’t you been been doing this already?
In fact we have but at a much smaller scale than necessary to make significant headway on the problem. Emphasis on funding in climate science is on the development of large models, which is of course important, but those models can’t improve without better understanding of fundamental physics, chemistry and biology. Since government funding favors the large modeling efforts it is not possible to develop a program of the scale needed.
What outcomes can we expect from the Lorenz Center?
Our essential “deliverable” is the scientific knowledge arising from fundamental discovery. A second but no less important outcome will be a change in the culture of climate science. As our success becomes known, we expect that our focus on fundamentals will not only produce a new cadre of young scientists focused on basic climate science, but also a demand for their skills at universities and government labs throughout the world.