Mathematics for climate change

climate change
applied category theory

John Baez




John Baez is now helping lead a new Fields Institute program on the mathematics of climate change.

Some news! I’m now helping lead a new Fields Institute program on the mathematics of climate change.

You may have heard of the Fields Medal, one of the most prestigious math prizes. But the Fields Institute, in Toronto, holds a lot of meetings on mathematics. So when COVID hit, it was a big problem. The director of the institute, Kumar Murty, decided to steer into the wind and set up a network of institutions working on COVID, including projects on the mathematics of infectious disease and systemic risks. This worked well, so now he wants to start a project on the mathematics of climate change. Nathaniel Osgood and I are leading it.

Nate, as I call him, is a good friend and collaborator. He’s a computer scientist at the University of Saskatchewan and, among other things, an expert on epidemiology who helped lead COVID modeling for Canada. We’re currently using category theory to develop a better framework for agent-based models.

Nate and I plan to focus the Fields Institute project not on the geophysics of climate change — e.g., trying to predict how bad global warming will be — but the human response to it — that is, figuring out what we should do! This project will be part of the Fields Institute’s Centre for Sustainable Development.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this. But for now, let me just say: I’m very excited to have this opportunity! Mathematics may not be the main thing we need to battle climate change, but there are important things in this realm that can only be done with the help of math. I know a lot of mathematicians, computer scientists, statisticians and others with quantitative skills want to do something about climate change. I aim to help them do it.