Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium

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Applying New Insights to Climate Solutions

The Garrison Institute’s Climate, Mind and Behavior (CMB) Symposium works to integrate emerging research findings about what drives human behavior into new thinking on climate solutions. It crystallizes and further develops the emerging understanding of human behavior and human nature generated by behavioral and social sciences, integrating them with insights from evolutionary theory and psychology, and applies this evolving body of thought specifically to climate change policy and related ecological issues, proposing new approaches, tools and solutions.

CMB convenes leading thinkers and practitioners in the fields of climate change and environmental advocacy, neuro-, behavioral and evolutionary economics, psychology, social networking, policy-making, and investing and social media to work together on ways to shift behavior on a large enough scale to realize substantial emissions reductions. It brought experts from these fields together for the first CMB symposium in March 2010. The most recent CMB Symposium was held at the Garrison Institute in June, 2013.


Climate, Mind and Behavior Sponsors

JPB Foundation









US Green Building


skoll global foundation









Argosy Foundation


GrnComm logo 2Spot-




CMB/NRDC "Behavioral Wedge"
CMB envisions a “behavioral wedge” empowering people to eliminate a gigaton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by simply changing our behavior now before regulatory, investment and other strategies take hold. In collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Garrison Institute is working to research, verify and disseminate practices individuals can use right now to reach one gigaton of GHG reductions. The Institute is working neuro-, behavioral and social scientists as well as movement and thought leaders in the CMB network on generating and disseminating behavior change strategies.

CMB Rationale
After interviewing dozens of leaders in the behavioral, including psychology and economics, neuro-, and social sciences, CMB has identified a need to collect and integrate insights from these fields and use them to generate climate change solutions. Applying this behavioral lens to environmental policy and regulation helps make it more effective and consonant with the way human ‘wiring’ and behavior has evolved, especially with regard to assigning value and risk. Neo-classical economics has failed to create a wealth-generating framework that properly values ecosystems. But we believe that by integrating the lessons of current behavioral and social sciences into policy and regulatory thinking, we are more likely to develop policies that would shift the behaviors driving climate change and ecosystem loss, advance a clean energy economy and identify pathways that transform humans’ negative environmental impacts into sustainable lifestyle choices. In particular, we want to build on the current paradigm shift in economics by reviewing its theoretical foundations. Behavioral and complexity economics, together with neuro-science and psychology, have challenged the rational actor model and the theory of market equilibrium. The financial crisis has helped to spur this questioning of the premises of neo-classical economic theory and provides a new window for action.

At the core of this work lies the search for mental models that not only better account for human economic choices and market dynamics, but also allow for new thinking to emerge. For example, this inquiry includes the field of axiology, the study of how we establish notions of value. CMB will help develop an intellectual and practical framework in which our economic, ecological and moral values are aligned, while striving for a world that acknowledges the rights of present and future occupants of this planet.



Climate, Mind and Behavior Events

Climate, Mind and Behavior Leadership


John McIlwain | Bio |

Climate, Mind and Behavior Leadership Council:

Dina Biscotti, UC Davis
Uwe Brandes, Urban Land Institute
Marilyn Cornelius, Stanford University
Jeff Domanski, Princeton University
Becky Ford, University of Otago, New Zealand
Ruth Greenspan-Bell, Woodrow Wilson Intl Center for Scholars
Lauren Kubiak, Natural Resources Defense Council
Skip Laitner, ACEEE
Nils Moe, Urban Sustainability Directors Network
Phil Payne, Gingko Residential
Roger Platt, USGBC
Jonathan Rose, Garrison Institute Board Member
Kurt Roth, Fraunhofer Institute
Jonathan Rowson, RSA
Rachael Shwom, Rutgers University
Jennifer Tabanico, Action Research
Jason Twill, Lend Lease (Australia)

For more information on Climate, Mind and Behavior and Climate, Buildings and Behavior, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.