System Design and Management

The MIT Master's Program in Engineering and Management

A Banquet of Consequences: Systems Thinking and Modeling for Climate Policy

John D. Sterman
Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management
Professor of System Dynamics and Engineering Systems, MIT
Director, MIT System Dynamics Group

Why is the world so slow to address the risks posed by climate change? The problem is not imperfect scientific understanding, nor lack of computer models, but a failure of systems thinking throughout society, including among scientists, policymakers, the media, and the public at large. This presentation will highlight the widespread but erroneous mental models people use to think about complex systems and how these poor models can be overcome with rigorous but accessible systems thinking methods. To illustrate, fast and flexible simulation models will be presented that provide people with the ability to discover—for themselves—the complex dynamics of the climate and the likely consequences of proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions. These models are now being used by senior policymakers in the United States and other nations.


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  • Sloan School of Management
  • School of Engineering
  • Engineering Systems Division

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