Four years ago, a group of economists met with representatives from some of the most prominent environmental non-profit organizations in the U.S. to discuss the importance of economics to the environmental movement. It was said that if public policy depended only on science and law, the environmental movement would be relatively well prepared to defend most of its positions. The case for, and against, environmental protection, however, is often made and won on economic grounds. It is this third leg of the stool, the growing dependence on economic analysis, that stands the environmental movement at a potential disadvantage.
The economists at the table understood that many of the answers the environmental movement was seeking could not be easily found within the economics profession. Economics had become highly mathematized and abstract, seemingly divorced from real world applications and difficult for non-economists to decipher. Yet, those economists also knew that economics could be a very powerful tool for environmental protection and for ensuring that the benefits and burdens of environmental protection are distributed fairly. So the idea was born to create a national network of economists developing new and applied arguments for active protection of human health and the environment.
The goals of Economics for Equity and the Environment (E3) Network, as it would later be named, were to support applied economics research that demonstrates fair and effective solutions to real-world environmental problems, and to involve economists more actively in environmental protection, through dialogue and cooperation with civil society, decision makers, media, and the public. We encourage you to visit our website and learn more about E3 network, its research, and its resources and programs for economists, non-profits, and graduate students.
As we quickly learned with E3 Network, nowhere was the need for better economics more acute than in the realm of climate change. Despite near scientific consensus about the human causes and potential consequences of climate change, measures to reduce emissions at the global, national, and regional levels were stalled due to concerns over the potential economic impacts of all but token initiatives. How could the science and economics seemingly be at such odds? Clearly there had to be something wrong with how economists were approaching, and communicating about, climate change.
To help resolve this dilemma, E3 Network launched Real Climate Economics, an online guide to the latest peer-reviewed publications and reports on the real economics of climate change, an emerging body of scholarship that is consistent with the urgency of the problem as seen from a climate science perspective. Real Climate Economics demonstrates that there is now extensive economic analysis in the peer-reviewed literature and in reports by reputable economists at universities, government agencies, think tanks, and non-profits that rigorously supports immediate, large-scale policy responses to the climate crisis.
To communicate this message most effectively to non-economists, and to provide timely economic commentary and analysis of debates around climate policy, we created this blog. The challenges and opportunities wrought by climate change are many, and the economists who contribute to this blog are uniquely well-suited to addressing these issues clearly and comprehensively. We welcome your active participation in this important and timely dialogue.
By Kristen Sheeran, Executive Director, Economics for Equity and the Environment Network