Watch the Forum: A Turning Point for International Climate Policy

On May 13, the American Academy of Political and Social Science hosted an online seminar, co-sponsored by SAGE Publishing, that featured presentations and recommendations by this year’s winner of the AAPSS Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize, Nobel-winning economist William Nordhaus.

Opening the event, president of the Academy Kenneth Prewitt asked what level of analysis and intensity was required to get the whole planet on board to curb climate change. He underlined the fact that current policy has not made a dent on the trends of carbon emissions thus far.

Building upon this, Nordhaus stressed that high prices on gas emissions and carbon prices were a key to reducing carbon emissions, stressing that “It’s not a tax but a price – we need to put a price on carbon emissions.” Harmonizing and equalizing the prices and coverage across sectors, industries and countries was crucial to curbing carbon emissions. Moreover, Nordhaus demonstrated the current fractures in the carbon regulations systems today. While carbon emission is currently concentrated in motor fuels and automobiles, more needs to be done to curb carbon use in other sectors, too. Nordhaus suggested a uniform tariff would be simpler, admitting that international agreement discrepancies are an inevitable challenge in the carbon emissions game and that this extra cost would show individuals to know that their carbon footprint both had a cost and was being addressed.

Since the 1970s, Nordhaus has argued that tax policy is the most effective remedy to the pollution that causes global warming.

In awarding him the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2018, the prize committee wrote, “At its heart, economics deals with the management of scarce resources. … William Nordhaus’ findings deal with interactions between society, the economy and climate change,” noting that Nordhaus has “brought us considerably closer to answering the question of how we can achieve sustained and sustainable global economic growth.” Nordhaus shared the economics Nobel that year with Paul Romer.

Nordhaus has been a professor at Yale University- where he studied as an undergrad – since 1973. He has been a member of the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity since 1972, and from 1977 to 1979 was an economic advisor to President Jimmy Carter’s administration.

The panel included:

David Victor

David Victor is a professor of innovation and public policy at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at University of California, San Diego.  He is the Center for Global Transformation Endowed Chair in Innovation and Public Policy. Victor is also the co-director of the campus-wide Deep Decarbonization Initiative, which focuses on real world strategies for bringing the world to nearly zero emissions of warming gases.  His research focuses on regulated industries and how regulation affects the operation of major energy markets. Much of his research is at the intersection of climate change science and policy. His book Global Warming Gridlock  explains why the world hasn’t made much diplomatic progress on the problem of climate change while also exploring new strategies that would be more effective.

Kathryn Harrison

Kathryn Harrison is a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia. She studies environmental, climate, and energy policy, federalism, and comparative public policy and is the author of Passing the Buck: Federalism and Canadian Environmental Policy and co-author of Risk, Science, and Politics. In addition, she has edited or co-edited several volumes, including Racing to the Bottom? Provincial Interdependence in the Canadian Federation, and Global Commons, Domestic Decisions: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change.

Rachel Kyte

Rachel Kyte is the dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University, and is the first woman to lead the nation’s oldest graduate-only school of international affairs. Prior to joining Fletcher, Kyte served as special representative of the U.N. secretary-general and chief executive officer of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL). She previously was the World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for climate change, leading in the run-up to the Paris Agreement. She was also vice president at the International Finance Corporation responsible for environmental, social, and corporate governance risk and business advisory services.

Robert Keohane

Moderator Robert Keohane is a professor of international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Keohane was president of the International Studies Association from 1988-1989 and president of the American Political Science Association from 1999-2000. He stood as the Chair of the Department of Government at Harvard University from 1988-1992, and has, throughout his career, served in various capacities at international organizations.

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