Sustainability Pushed Back Into Spotlight
William Nordhaus and Paul Romer, pioneers in adapting the western economic growth model to focus on environmental issues and sharing the benefits of technology, won the 2018 Nobel Economics Prize.
In a joint award that turned the spotlight on a rapidly shifting global debate over the impact of climate change, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the duo’s work helps answer questions about promoting long-term, sustainable prosperity.
Romer, of New York University’s Stern School of Business and best known for his work on endogenous growth – a theory rooted in investing in knowledge and human capital – said he had been taken by surprise by the award, but offered a positive message.
“I think one of the problems with the current situation is that many people think that protecting (the) environment will be so costly and so hard that they just want to ignore them,” he told a news conference via telephone.
“We can absolutely make substantial progress protecting the environment and do it without giving up the chance to sustain growth.”
Hours before the award, the United Nations panel on climate change said society would have to radically alter the way it consumes energy, travels and builds to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly called climate change a hoax, and last year announced that he would withdraw the United States from a global pact to combat it reached in 2015 – calling the deal’s demands for emissions cuts too costly.
Nordhaus, a Professor of Economics at Yale University, was the first person to create a quantitative model that described the interplay between the economy and the climate, the Swedish academy said.
“The key insight of my work was to put a price on carbon in order to hold back climate change,” Nordhaus was quoted as saying in a Yale publication this year. “The main recipe …is to make sure governments, corporations and households face a high price on their carbon emissions.”
Nobel committee chair Per Stromberg told Reuters Monday’s award was honoring research into the negative effects of growth on the climate and to make sure that this economic growth leaves prosperity for everyone.
Romer had shown how economic forces govern the willingness of firms to innovate, helping some societies grow many times faster than others. By understanding which market conditions favor the creation of profitable technologies, society can tailor policies to promote growth, the academy said.
While on leave from the Stern School, Romer served as chief economist and senior vice president at the World Bank until early this year. His work on endogenous growth theory is not universally admired.
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