Reflection on the 2017 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on the Economic Sciences

Every three years, there is a Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting for the Economic Sciences. This summer it was held from August 22 – August 26 in a spectacular setting located on Bodensee (Lake Constance) where 17 Nobel Laureates met with about 400 young scholars in economics.  There were presentations by Laureates and by many of the young scholars on a wide array of topics pertinent to economics. Each Laureate spoke for thirty minutes. In my case, I talked about my joint work with William “Buz” Brock entitled, “Wrestling with Uncertainty in Climate Economic Models.” It is a true challenge to give such a short talk, so I spent my time describing a research agenda. For events like this, it is often the informal spontaneous conversations that arise which are of most value. This is my second such meeting, and the main attraction for me is the interaction with the many young scholars from around the world.

Discussions of climate change and economics can be challenging. There is nervousness in many quarters when I remind people of the limits to our knowledge of the transmission mechanism from carbon emissions to climate and economic impacts. There is a concern that this acknowledgement just feeds the appetite of the climate change deniers or provides an excuse for delayed action. But jumping to such conclusion like this fails to recognize a basic insight from decision theory. The possibility of bad consequences in the future could easily be sufficient for a call to action to immediate action. Moreover, it should be a part of a scientific approach to research in this area, as well as in other areas, to acknowledge the quality of the pertinent evidence. In my talk, I described what I consider to be a productive research agenda to promote the provision of quantitative tools to guide climate policy while respecting the fact that our knowledge is incomplete.

I found the talks of the other Laureates to be fascinating, thought-provoking and that they will serve as great examples for the young scholars.

My slides from the meeting can be found here.
A video of my talk can be found here.
A recent update and comment on my presentation can be found here.