Special Session Held in Honor of Martin Weitzman at EAERE 2020 Conference

June 29, 2020

Harvard Environmental Economics Program (HEEP) Director, Robert Stavins, opened a special session in memory of Professor Martin Weitzman at the annual meeting of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE) on Friday, June 26, 2020. The conference was held virtually, and Stavins was joined by Gernot Wagner, faculty member at New York University and former HEEP Pre-Doctoral Fellow, honoring Professor Weitzman’s influential body of work in the field of environmental economics. The special session was hosted by the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, which plans to publish a special issue in memory of Weitzman. Both Stavins and Wagner worked closely with Weitzman for many years: Stavins as co-organizer of the Harvard Seminar on Environmental Economics and Policy, held at the Harvard Kennedy School for twenty-six years; and Wagner, as student, mentee, colleague and co-author.

Stavins and Wagner shared their personal recollections of Marty through the years. Notably, Stavins remembers him as a humble yet vocal driver of change in the field of environmental economics whose work will always be a “gift that keeps on giving.” Likewise, Wagner remembers Marty as a dedicated professor always willing to share his time and wisdom with students. Wagner recollects that Weitzman was never hesitant in letting his students know if they were wrong but was always happy to help them find the right answer and, more importantly, help them find the right question.

A panel of scholars continued to review and celebrate the life and work of Weitzman (1942-2019) after the opening remarks from Stavins and Wagner. Weitzman was one of the greatest scholars to have worked in the field of environmental and resource economics and made a number of seminal contributions to the field, including his 1974 paper “Prices versus Quantities,” his work on discounting the far-distant future using time-declining rates, valuing biodiversity within the framework of the “Noah’s Ark” problem, and “fat tails” in the distribution of impacts of climate change. (For more on Weitzman’s work, see the report of a symposium at Harvard in his honor in October 2018 here.)

The panel presentations featured three new papers building on Weitzman’s research on prices and quantities, including “The Cost-effectiveness Implications of Carbon Price Certainty” by Harvard Kennedy School Professor of Practice and HEEP Faculty Fellow, Joseph Aldy, and Harvard Ph.D. candidate and HEEP Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Sarah Armitage. Armitage presented their joint research, which builds on Weitzman’s body of work. Two other papers were also presented: Dallas Burtraw, Charles Holt, Karen Palmer, and William Shobe (2020), “Quantities with Prices,” presented by William Shobe (University of Virginia) and Reyer Gerlagh and Roweno Heijmans (2020), “Regulating Stock Externalities”, presented by Roweno Heijmans (Tilburg University).

The special session was organized and Chaired by Simon Dietz, London School of Economics, and Sheila Olmstead, University of Texas at Austin and former HEEP Pre-Doctoral Fellow.

See also: 2020