The Economics And Politics Of Climate Change

Feb 10, 2019

A demonstrator runs past a burning car during a demonstration in Paris on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, against an increase in fuel taxes.
Credit Thibault Camus / The Associated Press

When William Nordhaus was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize for his work on the economics of climate change, he said that the condition of the world at the end of the century “will depend on the steps that we, in this generation take now to slow global warming.” But Western Michigan University Political Science Professor Paul Clements says Nordhaus has spent decades throwing cold water on the urgency needed to address climate change.


Clements, who is part of Western's Climate Change Working Group, will be part of a panel discussion at Western Michigan University – The True Cost of Climate Change and its Policy Implications. It begins at 2:00p.m. Friday afternoon February 15th in Room 3508 of Knauss Hall.

Extended interview with Paul Clements in WMUK's WestSouthwest podcast

Nordhaus calls for a tax on carbon. He said in a 2014 story for NPR “We need to put a price on carbon so that when anyone, anywhere, anytime does something that puts carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, there’s a price tag on that.” But Clements says the Yale University professor’s proposal is inadequate. He says Nordhaus’ model severely underestimates the future costs associated with climate change.

Clements calls Nordhaus “the leading climate change economist.” He says Nordhaus created the models that other economists now use to measure the economic impact of climate change and what is known as the social cost of carbon. But Clements says that Nordhaus’ proposal for a carbon tax is not enough to slow the rise of climate change. A carbon tax that dramatically increases the cost of gasoline or electricity is likely to be a “tough sell politically” acknowledges Clements. But he says Nordhaus’ work has made it even tougher to get support.