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[Episode #68] – Environmental Economics

In an economy as large and complex as the United States, how can we tell when our efforts at energy transition are working? How do we calculate our carbon emissions? How do we know why emissions fell, especially if increased efficiency can rebound into more consumption, an effect known as the Jevons Paradox? How should we calculate the cost of damage due to climate change, and how we should choose the discount rates we use in evaluating investments to stop it? And even if we knew the answers to all these difficult questions, how should we act, given how little certainty we have about the future of the climate, and of the trajectory of energy transition itself? Can economic theory even help us plot a sensible path toward energy transition and climate change mitigation? Our guest in this episode has published extensively on all of these thorny questions, and we’ll discuss that research with him, along with his current research into solar geoengineering.


Dr. Gernot Wagner is a climate economist at Columbia Business School. His research, teaching, and writing focus on climate risks and climate policy. Prior to joining Columbia as senior lecturer and serving as faculty director of the Climate Knowledge Initiative, Gernot taught at NYU, Harvard, and Columbia. He was the founding executive director of Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program. Prior to his time at Harvard, Gernot worked at the Environmental Defense Fund, the Boston Consulting Group, and the Financial Times. He has been a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Senior Fellow at the Jain Family Institute, and is a CESifo Research Network Fellow, a Faculty Affiliate at the Columbia Center for Environmental Economics and Policy, a Member of the New York City Panel on Climate Change, a Coordinating Lead Author of the Austrian Panel on Climate Change, and he serves on the board of

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Recording date: March 16, 2018

Air date: May 2, 2018

Geek rating: 7