The seminal contributions of William Nordhaus to scholarship on the long-run macroeconomics of global climate change are clear. Much more challenging to identify are the impacts of Nordhaus and his research on public policy in this domain. We examine three conceptually distinct pathways for that influence: his personal participation in the policy world; his research’s direct contribution to the formulation and evaluation of public policy; and his research’s indirect role informing public policy. Many of the themes that emerge in this assessment of the contributions of one of the most important economists to have worked in the domain of climate change analysis apply more broadly to the roles played by other leading economists in this and other policy domains.
The Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has achieved one of two key necessary conditions for ultimate success—a broad base of participation among the countries of the world. But another key necessary condition has yet to be achieved—adequate collective ambition of the individual nationally determined contributions. How can the climate negotiators provide a structure that will include incentives to increase ambition over time? An important part of the answer can be international linkage of regional, national, and sub-national policies, that is, formal recognition of emission reductions undertaken in another jurisdiction for the purpose of meeting a Party’s own mitigation objectives. A central challenge is how to facilitate such linkage in the context of the very great heterogeneity that characterizes climate policies along five dimensions: type of policy instrument, level of government jurisdiction, status of that jurisdiction under the Paris Agreement, nature of the policy instrument’s target, and the nature along several dimensions of each Party’s Nationally Determined Contribution. We consider such heterogeneity among policies, and identify which linkages of various combinations of characteristics are feasible; of these, which are most promising; and what accounting mechanisms would make the operation of respective linkages consistent with the Paris Agreement.
International cooperation to address the threat of climate change has become more institutionally diverse over the past decade, reflecting multiple scales of governance and the growing inclusion of climate change issues in other policy arenas. Cooperation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has continued to evolve from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the 2015 Paris Agreement, while other governmental and private sector international fora for cooperation have arisen. As the level of activity in international cooperation on climate change mitigation has increased, so too has the related scholarly literature. In this review, we synthesize the literature on international climate change cooperation and identify key policy implications, as well as those findings most relevant for the research community. Our scope includes critical evaluation of the organization and implementation of agreements and instruments, retrospective analysis of cooperative efforts, and explanations of successes and failures.
In the Old-World vineyards of Europe, a key concept that plays an important role in the production and appreciation of wines is terroir, which refers to the special characteristics of a place that impart unique qualities to the wine produced. We examine whether terroir matters in the New-World wines produced in California’s Napa and Sonoma Counties by conducting a hedonic price analysis of vineyard sales over the period 1991 to 2007 to determine the relative effects on vineyard sales prices of designated appellations versus biophysical site attributes commonly associated with terroir, such as slope, aspect, elevation, and climate. Because vineyards that are sold are not necessarily representative of the universe of vineyards, we employ Heckman’s two-stage econometric approach to control for possible sample-selection bias. We find that intrinsic site attributes and designated appellations influence vineyard prices, although our results are stronger and more consistent with regard to the influence of appellations. This finding indicates that terroir matters economically, even if the designated appellations have relatively less connection in reality with terroir. (JEL Classifications: C2, Q11)
Energy-efficient technologies offer considerable promise for reducing the financial costs and environmental damages associated with energy use, but it has long been observed that these technologies may not be adopted by individuals and firms to the degree that might be justified, even on a purely financial basis. We survey the relevant literature on this "energy-efficiency gap" by presenting two complementary frameworks. First, we divide potential explanations for the energy-efficiency gap into three categories: market failures, behavioral explanations, and model and measurement errors. Second, we organize previous research in terms of the fundamental elements of cost-minimizing energy-efficiency decisions. This provides a decomposition that organizes thinking around four questions. First, are product offerings and pricing economically efficient? Second, are energy operating costs inefficiently priced and/or understood? Third, are product choices cost minimizing in present value terms? Fourth, do other costs inhibit more energy-efficient decisions? We synthesize academic research on these questions, with an emphasis on recent empirical findings, and offer suggestions for future research.
This article reviews the design of environmental markets for pollution control over the past 30 years, and identifies key market-design lessons for future applications. The focus is on a subset of the cap-and-trade systems that have been implemented, planned, or proposed around the world. Three criteria led us to the selection of systems for review. First, among the broader class of tradable permit systems, our focus is exclusively on cap-and-trade mechanisms, thereby excluding emission-reduction-credit or offset programmes. Second, among cap-and-trade mechanisms, we examine only those that target pollution abatement, and so we do not include applications to natural resource management, such as individual transferable quota systems used to regulate fisheries. Third, we focus on the most prominent applications—those that are particularly important environmentally, economically, or both.
This essay provides one economist’s perspective on the two-decade evolution of the field of environmental economics, by tracing it through personal reflections on the professional path that has led to my research and writing. Also, the article summarizes the highlights of some of my research and writing during this period.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is broadly viewed as the world’s most legitimate scientific assessment body that periodically assesses the economics of climate change (among many other topics) for policy audiences. However, growing procedural inefficiencies and limitations to substantive coverage have made the IPCC an increasingly unattractive forum for the most qualified climate economists. Drawing on our observations and personal experience working on the most recent IPCC report, published last year, we propose four reforms to the IPCC’s process that we believe will lower the cost for volunteering as an IPCC author: improving interactions between governments and academics, making IPCC operations more efficient, clarifying and strengthening conflict of interest rules, and expanding outreach. We also propose three reforms to the IPCC’s substantive coverage to clarify the IPCC’s role and to make participation as an author more intellectually rewarding: complementing the IPCC with other initiatives, improving the integration of economics with other disciplines, and providing complete data for policymakers to make decisions. Despite the distinct characteristics of the IPCC that create challenges for authors unlike those in any other review body, we continue to believe in the importance of the IPCC for providing the most visible line of public communication between the scholarly community and policymakers.