Header image First International Workshop on  
Orlando, Florida
26 October, 2009

This workshop will explore the contributions that software research can make to the challenge of climate change. Climate change is likely to be the defining issue of the 21st Century. Recent studies indicate that climate change is accelerating, confirming the most pessimistic of scenarios identified by climate scientists. Our past use of fossil fuels commit the world to around 2°C average temperature rise since the pre-industrial era, and, unless urgent and drastic cuts are made, further heating is likely to trigger any of a number of climate change tipping points. The results will be a dramatic reduction of food production and water supplies, more extreme weather events, the spread of disease, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and mass extinctions. We are faced with the twin challenges of mitigation (avoiding the worst climate change effects by rapidly transitioning the world to a low-carbon economy) and adaptation (re-engineering the infrastructure of modern society so that we can survive and flourish on a hotter planet). [See Links for more info]

These challenges are global in nature, and pervade all aspects of society. To address them, we will need researchers, engineers, policymakers, and educators from many different disciplines to come the the table and ask what they can contribute. There are both short term challenges (such as how to deploy, as rapidly as possible, existing technology to produce renewable energy; how to design government policies and international treaties to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control) and long term challenges (such as how to complete the transition to a global carbon-neutral society by the latter half of this century). In nearly all these challenges, software has a major role to play as a critical enabling technology.

The Challenge

So, for the software research community, we can frame the challenge as follows: How can we, as experts in software technology, and as the creators of future software tools and techniques, apply our particular knowledge and experience to the challenge of climate change? How can we understand and exploit the particular intellectual assets of our community — our ability to:

  • think computationally;
  • understand and model complex inter-related systems;
  • build useful abstractions and problem decompositions;
  • manage and evolve large-scale socio-technical design efforts;
  • build the information systems and knowledge management tools that empower effective decision-making;
  • develop and verify complex control systems on which we now depend;
  • create user-friendly and task-appropriate interfaces to complex information and communication infrastructures.

In short, how can we apply our research strengths to make significant contributions to the problems of mitigation and adaptation of climate change?

This workshop will be the first in a series, intended to develop a community of researchers actively engaged in this challenge, and to flesh out a detailed research agenda that leverages existing research ideas and capabilities. Therefore we welcome any kind of response to this challenge statement.


We welcome the active participation of software researchers and practitioners interested in any aspect of this challenge. The participants will themselves determine the scope and thrusts of this workshop, so this list of suggested topics is intended to act only as a starting point:

  • requirements analysis for complex global change problems;
  • integrating sustainability into software system design;
  • green IT, including power-aware computing and automated energy management;
  • developing control systems to create smart energy grids and improve energy conservation;
  • developing information systems to support urban planning, transport policies, green buildings, etc.;
  • software tools for open collaborative science, especially across scientific disciplines;
  • design patterns for successful emissions reduction strategies;
  • social networking tools to support rapid action and knowledge sharing among communities;
  • educational software for hands-on computational science;
  • knowledge management and decision support tools for designing and implementing climate change policies;
  • tools and techniques to accelerate the development and validation of earth system models by climate scientists;
  • data sharing and data management of large scientific datasets;
  • tools for creating and sharing visualizations of climate change data;