Two Climate Change AI Co-Founders Named Among MIT Technology Review’s “35 Innovators Under 35”

June 30, 2021 - Climate Change AI’s David Rolnick and Priya Donti have been named to MIT Technology Review’s 2021 list of “35 Innovators Under 35.” Each year, the venerable publication honors young innovators worldwide whose work holds “the greatest potential to transform the world.”

Rolnick and Donti were both recognized for their research and engagement in climate change and machine learning, encompassing topics such as optimizing power grids and monitoring biodiversity.

The awards speak to the AI community’s growing focus on societal benefit. “It means a lot to me to see growing interest in and acceptance of applications like climate change,” says Donti.

Rolnick and Donti, along with Lynn Kaack, are the co-founders and chairs of Climate Change AI (CCAI), an organization that catalyzes impactful work at the intersection of climate change and machine learning. They view the awards as validating not just the research topic, but the deliberate approach CCAI has championed.

Starting with the foundational paper that birthed the organization, CCAI has emphasized the scores of ways machine learning can support climate change mitigation and adaptation—and also the pitfalls of naive technological solutionism. “By highlighting this work,” Rolnick suggests,“ Tech Review is recognizing the value of focusing not on the shiniest use of the latest tools, but on impact-driven assessment of where AI is and isn’t applicable.”

Since its inception in 2019, CCAI has helped hundreds of researchers meet collaborators, learn new skills, and publish high-quality research. CCAI’s programs include academic workshops, webinars, tutorials, and curated resources. The organization has also advised companies and policymakers, and offers a Wiki and community platform for questions and knowledge-sharing. “Collaboration is key to deploying AI in a responsible and impactful way,” says Kaack, “so we have worked to bring together stakeholders from across academia, industry, the public sector, and civil society.”

Even with all this activity, Donti, Rolnick, and Kaack see enormous untapped potential, particularly for on-the-ground deployment. “There are still fundamental bottlenecks to deploying research like this,” Donti says. That is why CCAI is especially excited to partner with players in sectors like power systems, heavy industry, and agriculture. CCAI envisions acting as a bridge, convening generative conversations where stakeholders can explore impactful applications and co-developing funding and secondment programs that strengthen research-to-deployment pathways.

Most of all, the three founders hope that CCAI’s work and the recent awards will inspire professionals in AI and beyond to contribute their skills to combating the climate crisis. “The systemic change we need is the product of everyone exerting influence at whatever level they have it,” Rolnick says. “For many of us, our biggest lever is our work.”

For anyone looking to borrow or lend an AI-related lever, Rolnick, Donti, Kaack, and the rest of CCAI stand ready to help.

Media contact: Jesse Dunietz,