Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

William Nordhaus and the Economics of Climate Change

Masini Fabio, University of Roma Tre

In 2018 the Nobel Committee decided to award the prize in economics to William Nordhaus, for his pioneering contributions to the macroeconomics of climate change. Nevertheless, Nordhaus since the early 1970s was systematically engaged in an academic struggle to contrast the major supporters of The Limits to Growth, a popular and widely disseminated enquiry that cast a doom shadow over the relationship between available natural resources and economic growth. In the following decades Nordhaus, though acknowledging some impact of climate change on economic activity and suggesting tax on greenhouse emissions, systematically opposed pessimistic views concerning pollution, waste, global warming, etc. The aim of this paper is to enquire into Nordhaus’s main contributions to the economics of climate change, and the impact they had on both academic and public debates, in the last few decades in order to better understand what might have been the reasons for awarding the Nobel Prize to him.

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Keywords: William Nordhaus; economics of climate change; collective action