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Jon Goldstein Memorial Lecture

August 17, 2017

Climate (and Other) Catastrophes

Robert Pindyck

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd Professor in Finance and Economics, MIT Sloan School of Management

How great is the risk of a climate catastrophe, and what should we do about it? The likelihood and possible impact of a catastrophic climate outcome is what drives the social cost of carbon, and thus the case for a stringent climate policy.  But what is that likelihood, and what kinds of outcomes might occur?  Might the impact of a catastrophic climate outcome be limited to a sharp reduction in GDP and consumption (as most climate models assume), or might the impact also include the deaths of large numbers of people?  The answers to these questions are necessarily speculative, but we must address them. To complicate matters, there are other potential catastrophes that we must also worry about, such as nuclear or bioterrorism, or the spread of a “mega-virus.”  What are the policy implications of these threats, and how we might respond to the risk of climate – and other – catastrophes?

JON HELLER GOLDSTEIN devoted 35 years to public service as an economist working tirelessly to improve the environment and reduce poverty through investment in human capital. In 1964, Dr. Goldstein earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Minnesota and went on to play several key roles in the Social Security Administration, Department of the Interior, and on the Endangered Species Committee. Dr. Goldstein's distinguished career with the Department of the Interior, his seminal work on wetlands conservation, and numerous articles on the impact of federal programs on wetlands, will leave a lasting legacy on environmental policy.
The Jon Goldstein Memorial Lecture on Economics and Environmental Policy was established through the generosity of the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family.