Climate Policy—Past, Present, and Future

Fall 2017

What’s the optimal way to curb carbon emissions? Should we price fossil or subsidize low-carbon energy? What’s the role of solar geoengineering? What should it be? What will it be?

The course has two goals: to provide a set of tools to approach these and many other fundamental climate policy questions, and to help us distinguish positive (“what will be”) from normative (“what should be”) analysis. Economics and political economy provide particularly powerful lenses through which to analyze climate policy—past, present, and future.

Many questions discussed don’t have a clear answer. Come prepared to argue both sides of each issue in class. Student-led debates, semi-regular 1,000-word essays, and the final paper will reinforce class discussions. They will also ask you to pick a side. Think Economist leader: crisp, logical, and always with a point of view. By the end of the course, you will be well prepared to apply fundamental economic and political economy tools to a host of climate questions, and to do so without fear, favor, or jargon.

Latest syllabus (version: 27 October 2017)

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Solar geoengineering reduces atmospheric carbon burden

Solar geoengineering is no substitute for cutting emissions, but could nevertheless help reduce the atmospheric carbon burden. In the extreme, if solar geoengineering were used to hold radiative forcing constant under RCP8.5, the carbon burden may be reduced by ~100 GTC, equivalent to 12–26% of twenty-first-century emissions at a cost of under US$0.5 per tCO2.

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