Featured in the Garrison Institute Annual Report 2009
In 2009 the Garrison Institute’s Climate Change Leadership program launched the multi-year Climate, Mind and Behavior (CMB) project to integrate recent work in the behavioral and social sciences — including neuro-, behavioral and complexity economics, evolutionary theory and psychology — with new thinking about climate solutions, so they can take into account what scientists are now learning about the drivers of human behavior. CMB brought together and activated an extraordinary network of leaders collaborating across these diverse fields, which continues to grow and evolve.
We assembled a distinguished steering committee and advisory body comprised of prominent thinkers in each field to guide the program. Dr. John Gowdy of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute served as science advisor, chaired the steering committee and conducted a baseline study of intersections within these fields. Dr. Rebecca Henderson of the Harvard Business School facilitated the committee. Economist Sander Tideman carried out the first mapping studies and wrote the first paper describing the project’s scope of work and key ideas.
In 2009 we began disseminating CMB information with links to articles, research and relevant projects via monthly email blasts to academics, government officials, NGO leaders and entrepreneurs following our work.
"The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Garrison Institute’s Climate, Mind and Behavior Project found that personal actions could reduce US carbon emissions by 1 billion metric tons by 2020.... Is it reasonable to expect people to sacrifice for the greater good, when classical economics teaches us that human beings will seek to maximize their own gain? ... ‘Simple models of human behavior where I pursue only my own interests are far too limited,’ says Rebecca Henderson, co-editor of the Harvard Business School’s Business and Environmental Initiative. ‘Humans are much more cooperative and empathetic than that."
— TIME Magazine reporting on CMB
We proposed the idea of a “behavioral wedge” to the Natural Resources Defense Council and collaborated with NRDC on its development. In climate science parlance a “wedge” is a gigaton of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction; a “behavioral wedge” is a gigaton of GHG reduction that comes from simple, low- or no-cost individual behavioral shifts adopted on a large scale, such as keeping tires inflated or eating slightly more poultry and less red meat. NRDC did the quantitative research verifying the potential GHG reduction of such behaviors. CMB steering committee members provided peer review, and CMB’s inquiry into new behavioral and social science research afforded insights into how to take them to scale. Shifting voluntary behavior is one important front among many others in the fight against climate change, one that will also benefit other large-scale regulatory, policy, market and investment shifts we need.
During 2009 the CMB steering committee, advisors and Institute staff planned and organized the first CMB symposium, to be held at the Institute in March 2010 and slated to become an annual event.