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Harvard Business School Professor Rebecca Henderson

Harvard Business School Professor Rebecca Henderson Outlines Ways Organizations Are Changing in Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic and Climate Change in New Episode of "Environmental Insights"

April 8, 2020
Columbia University Professor, Scott Barrett

Columbia University Professor Scott Barrett Compares Global Responses to COVID-19 and Climate Change in Special Edition of “Environmental Insights”

March 27, 2020

CAMBRIDGE MA. – Listen to the interview here. A full transcript of the interview is available here. Columbia University Professor Scott Barrett assessed the massive global efforts underway to address...

Read more about Columbia University Professor Scott Barrett Compares Global Responses to COVID-19 and Climate Change in Special Edition of “Environmental Insights”
Sarah Armitage gives presentation at podium

HEEP Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Sarah Armitage, Awarded NBER Fellowship

March 25, 2020

HEEP Pre-Doctoral Fellow Sarah Armitage has been awarded a fellowship from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Candidates for the fellowship are assessed for their potential to make an important contribution to important questions in energy economics and are chosen based on recommendations from a selection panel co-chaired by Meredith Fowlie (University of California, Berkeley) and Ryan Kellogg (University of Chicago). Fellowship recipients pursue academic research...

Read more about HEEP Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Sarah Armitage, Awarded NBER Fellowship

Learn about HEEP

HEEP is a university-wide initiative addressing today's complex environmental challenges and is based in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. Learn more by reading director Robert Stavins' welcome message.

Environmental Insights Podcast

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Recent Publications

Aldy, Joseph E., Maximillian Auffhammer, Maureen Cropper, Arthur Fraas, and Richard Morgenstern. “Looking Back at Fifty Years of the Clean Air Act.” Harvard Environmental Economics Program Discussion Paper Series, 2020.Abstract
Since 1970, transportation, power generation, and manufacturing have dramatically transformed as air pollutant emissions have fallen significantly. To evaluate the causal impacts of the Clean Air Act on these changes, we synthesize and review retrospective analyses of air quality regulations. The geographic heterogeneity in regulatory stringency common to many regulations has important implications for emissions, public health, compliance costs, and employment. Cap-and-trade programs have delivered greater emission reductions at lower cost than conventional regulatory mandates, but policy practice has fallen short of the cost-effective ideal. Implementing regulations in imperfectly competitive markets have also influenced the Clean Air Act’s benefits and costs.
Stock, James H.Data Gaps and the Policy Response to the Novel Coronavirus.” Harvard Environmental Economics Program Discussion Paper Series (2020).Abstract
This note lays out the basic Susceptible-Infected-Recovered (SIR) epidemiological model of contagion, with a target audience of economists who want a framework for understanding the effects of social distancing and containment policies on the evolution of contagion and interactions with the economy. A key parameter, the asymptomatic rate (the fraction of the infected that are not tested under current guidelines), is not well estimated in the literature because tests for the coronavirus have been targeted at the sick and vulnerable, however it could be estimated by random sampling of the population. In this simple model, different policies that yield the same transmission rate β have the same health outcomes but can have very different economic costs. Thus, one way to frame the economics of shutdown policy is as finding the most efficient policies to achieve a given β, then determining the path of β that trades off the economic cost against the cost of excess lives lost by overwhelming the health care system.
Stavins, Robert. “The Future of U.S. Carbon-Pricing Policy.” Harvard Environmental Economics Program Discussion Paper (2019).Abstract
There is widespread agreement among economists – and a diverse set of other policy analysts – that at least in the long run, an economy-wide carbon pricing system will be an essential element of any national policy that can achieve meaningful reductions of CO2 emissions cost-effectively in the United States. There is less agreement, however, among economists and others in the policy community regarding the choice of specific carbon-pricing policy instrument, with some supporting carbon taxes and others favoring cap-and-trade mechanisms. This prompts two important questions. Which – if either – of the two major approaches to carbon pricing is superior in terms of relevant criteria, including but not limited to efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and distributional equity? And which of the two approaches is more likely to be adopted in the future in the United States? This paper addresses these questions by drawing on both normative and positive theories of policy instrument choice as they apply to U.S. climate change policy, and draws extensively on relevant empirical evidence. The paper concludes with a look at the path ahead, including an assessment of how the two carbon-pricing instruments can be made more politically acceptable.

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