Event Details

The first day "The Future of Growth in the Climate Transition" explored questions on environmentally sustainable economic growth, from climate justice and poverty reduction to energy markets and the relationship between economic and climate models. The second day commemorated the 50th anniversary of Nordhaus and Tobin’s classic paper, "Is Growth Obsolete?" and examined the linkage between the environment and economic growth and the opportunities and implication of including the environment in systems of economic measurement. 

Event Description

What is the future of economic growth in the face of climate change, and how should we measure it? How will low-income countries achieve significant poverty reduction without using carbon-intensive approaches or further degrading the environment? Have we been able to measure the economic value to natural resources accurately? How well do macroeconomic models capture the assumptions in climate models, and vice versa?

Such questions were the focus of the conference, presented on Thursday and Friday, November 9-10 by EGC, the Yale School of the Environment, and the Yale Tobin Center for Economic Policy, with additional support from Yale Planetary Solutions, the Knobloch Family Foundation, and Smart Prosperity Institute.

On November 9, the Economic Growth Center hosted a problem-focused climate economics conference examining the future of economic growth in the climate transition. Sessions covered frictions in climate adaptation in lower-income countries, energy markets and the renewable energy transition and the spatial and macro-economics of climate change. Esther Duflo delivered a keynote address and we concluded with an inter-disciplinary panel on the modelling of climate impacts with human/social feedback.

On November 10, the Yale School of the Environment and Tobin Center marked the 50th anniversary of William Nordhaus and James Tobin’s seminal paper “Is Growth Obsolete?”, and highlighted plans for Natural Capital Accounting that Yale economists have helped develop within the Biden Administration.

The conference was held in New Haven and included researchers and policymakers.

Speakers on November 9 included Nobel laureate Esther Duflo (MIT), as well as Natalia Fabra (UC3M), Islamul Haque (Yale), Allan Hsiao (Princeton), Kelsey Jack (UCSB), Samuel Kortum (Yale), Gregory Lane (Chicago Harris), Valerie Ramey (UCSD), Catherine Wolfram (MIT), Tony Smith (Yale), and more.

Speakers on November 10 included Nobel laureate Bill Nordhaus (Yale), as well as Ethan Addicott (Exeter), Matthew Agarwala (Cambridge), Spencer Banzhaf (NCSU), Steven Berry (Yale), Linda Bilmes (Harvard), Eli Fenichel (Yale), Dennis Fixler (BEA), Chad Jones (Stanford), Beth Kiser (Fed Board), Sarah Kapnick (NOAA), Albert Kroese (IMF), Steve Landefeld (BEA), Ehsan Masood (Nature), Nick Muller (CMU), Carl Obst (IDEEA), Rohini Pande (Yale), and more.

Watch Esther Duflo and Lucas Chancel on Addressing the Climate Inequality Crisis

Climate breakdown is exacerbating inequality within and between countries. In the Keynote Session of the Yale Climate, Environment & Economic Growth Conference, economists Lucas Chancel and Esther Duflo diagnosed the “triple climate inequality crisis” and proposed solutions.

Conference Synopsis

Day 1: The Future of Growth in the Climate Transition
Thursday, November 9, 2023

Halting the ongoing climate breakdown requires commitments from high-income countries to rapidly implement drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and commitments from low- and middle-income income countries to limit future emission increases. At the same time, politicians in both rich and poor countries cannot steer away from promising continued economic growth, as a widely accepted prerequisite for improving citizen welfare and reducing poverty. This conference asked whether it is possible to pursue global economic growth as currently defined and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions simultaneously, and, if so, what policies are required to achieve this – and if not, what economic and environmental targets our policies should aim for instead. Key themes for discussion included:

  • The spatial and macro-economic implications of climate instability
  • Energy market policy in the renewable energy transition
  • Frictions in adaptation and policies to mitigate the increases in national and international inequality
  • How should redistributive climate transfers from rich to poor countries be designed?
  • Interdisciplinary research on the modelling of climate impacts with human/social feedback

Watch the Panel Discussion on Modelling Climate Impacts with Human/Social Feedback

The final session of the Yale Climate, Environment & Economic Growth Conference highlighted the importance of quantitative models – which allow us to study, understand, and ultimately tell stories about the impacts of climate change and human responses to it – but such models rarely reflect true interdisciplinary efforts.

Day 2: 50-year Anniversary of "Is Growth Obsolete?" by William Nordhaus and James Tobin
Friday, November 10, 2023

GDP has been called one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Yet, even in GDP’s (GNP’s) earliest days, economists and policymakers raised concern that the metric was not sufficient to measure economic welfare or socio-economic progress. 50 years ago, Bill Nordhaus and James Tobin’s paper “Is Growth Obsolete” took these concerns, organized them, and launched research programs and policy actions to improve national accounting in order to avoid the “serious consequences of treating as free things which are not really free[, because] this practice gives the wrong signals of the direction of economic growth.”

Today, the international community is committed to going “Beyond GDP”: the System of National Accounts is being revised to better consider sustainability; 90 countries have adopted the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting; and the U.S. national strategy to develop natural capital and environmental-economic statistics, released last January, credits “Is Growth Obsolete” as the modern origin of these efforts. Despite the progress made over the last 50 years, national accounting practice and economics have drifted apart. The 50th anniversary of “Is Growth Obsolete” provided an opportunity to bring national accountants and economists back together, to celebrate Nordhaus and Tobin’s seminal contribution, take stock of the progress made, and build the bridges to support the research and work ahead – all at a time when this economic measurement of public goods has never been more important.

This workshop included sessions on:

  • The evolution of national accounting and the environment
  • How economic measurement needs to evolve to account for the environment and climate
  • The role of the environment in the future of economic growth.