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What’s New in Climate Economics

by Frank Ackerman • November 9, 2011 @ 9:02 am

Economic analysis has become increasingly central to the climate policy debate, but the models and assumptions of climate economics often lag far behind the latest developments in this fast-moving field. That’s why Elizabeth Stanton and I have written Climate Economics: The State of the Art, an in-depth review of new developments in climate economics and science since the Stern Review (2006) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report (2007), with more than 500 citations to the recent research literature.

We begin with a survey of climate science that is potentially relevant to economic analysis, including uncertainties in climate dynamics, the role of black carbon, temperature thresholds for irreversible losses, a new understanding of climate impacts on agriculture, and projections that temperatures could remain near their historical peak for centuries or millennia after greenhouse gas concentrations start declining.

We then focus on innovations in the economic theory and analysis of climate change, including new approaches to uncertainty that build on Weitzman’s “dismal theorem,” which shows the marginal benefit of emission reduction can be infinite. We also cover new developments in the longstanding debate about discount rates and intergenerational economic analysis, and the problems of international equity, which are central to climate negotiations but barely visible in the economics literature. (more…)

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What Switcheroo? A Response to Bruce Everett

by Frank Ackerman • August 29, 2011 @ 1:25 am

In a recent blog post, Tufts University professor and former ExxonMobil executive Bruce Everett claims to have had hundreds of conversations with advocates of active climate protection over the last ten years. From these conversations he claims that they – an almost entirely unnamed group of “Climatistas”  –  make ever-changing, unsubstantiated arguments, and cannot answer his objections.

I’m not sure who his “Climatistas” are, or why they were struck dumb by his garden-variety climate-skeptic arguments. But here’s a quick response. I’ll try to resist the temptation to respond to his rhetoric in kind.

Substantively, there are eight paragraphs in his “Climate Change Switcheroo” commentary that argue against the “Climatistas.” Here are his eight main points, with my responses. (more…)

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Desert Year: Insights on Economy, Energy, and Climate

by Skip Laitner • August 8, 2011 @ 9:29 am

John ‘Skip” Laitner is an economist, enjoying a desert year while on research sabbatical  from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Skip is uncovering some surprising insights from his time in the desert that inform the way one looks at the economy and social systems. In a series of posts entitled Desert Year, Skip lends us his insights, as well as his 40 years of experience as an energy and natural resource economist, to probe the economic, climate, and energy challenges that confront us.

A Most Unnatural Cactus! 

Unlike most economic statistics, this really caught my eye.  A very tall and almost too perfect-looking giant saguaro cactus, perched very high upon the hill just outside Tucson. The desert sentinel.  I wondered aloud whether it was real or perhaps artificial.  My friend leaned over as we drove past and assured me that it might be unusually large but it looked quite real.

Still I wondered.

It took me almost six weeks later, this past weekend in fact, to actually find out.  I was out for a late afternoon jaunt and I first started to scoot along on the road right past the cactus.  But as I again looked up again I suddenly thought, why not turn the outing into a more of an adventure? So I decided to get up close and personal.

As I then detoured and surged the 200 meters up the hill, some of the details begin to unfold.  About halfway up, yes, it began to look like the real thing.  From about 30 meters away I spotted a couple of holes that might have been home to Gila Woodpeckers or Gilded Flickers.  And I thought, why yes, it might actually turn out to be very real indeed. 

But it wasn’t until I was perhaps 10 to 15 meters away that I saw the bolts that held it to its concrete footing, and as I pulled right up to it I spotted the several heavy wires that looked as though they might siphon off a very large current. I’m guessing it was nothing more than a very elegant lighting rod.

I am an economist, enjoying a desert year – very much in the tradition of naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch’s book, The Desert Year.  He wrote it in the year just before he joined the University of Arizona faculty in 1952.  I first read it in the early 1980s.  And as I am slowly making the transition into a year-long research sabbatical with colleagues at the University, the “Desert Year” again informs my thinking.  (more…)

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