By Brian Dumaine, senior editor-at-large
FORTUNE -- The news on global warming isn't getting any better. A draft summary of the next big United Nations climate study, as reported by the New York Times, concludes with nearly 100% certainty that human activity is the main cause behind the earth's heating, and that if nothing is done to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels could rise a catastrophic three feet by the end of the century. In the 2010 Cancun Agreement, world leaders concluded that the most we can afford is a 2°C rise in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels. Another new study by the British NGO Carbon Tracker found that to avoid that 2°C rise, the world must largely wean itself from oil, gas, and coal by mid-century. Because nearly all of our energy now comes from fossil fuels this is, to say the least, a daunting task.
Those kind of challenges are what motivate the scientists and engineers at California Institute of Technology, one of the nation's premier universities. In a quest to make the world more sustainable, The Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech, a think tank which is funded by entrepreneurs Lynda and Stewart Resnick, who created the POM Wonderful and FIJI Water brands, has established a global award that will honor cutting-edge work that addresses some of the hardest problems in energy and sustainability. Says Neil Fromer, the Resnick Institute's Executive Director: "We are trying to shine a light on the brilliant young scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and politicians around the world who are innovating in sustainability."
Called the Resonate Awards, the contest will be judged by a panel comprised of Caltech's professors and outside experts. The judges will look for young, unheralded innovators around the world who are thinking in radically new ways to solve the world's climate, food, water, and resources problems. "One of our goals," says Fromer, "is to discover new business models for working in a more sustainable ways."
The award winners will be announced in the spring of 2014. To apply, go to http://resnick.caltech.edu/awards.php.
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