2023 Climate, Environment & Economic Growth Conference

Conference Synopsis

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” provides 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 will include 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.

Click here to register for the Zoom broadcast of Day 2 sessions (some sessions will be streamed).

Program Schedule

Friday, November 10
Kroon Hall, Yale School of Environment (195 Prospect St)

8:00 - 8:45 am EST  

Coffee, continental breakfast registration

8:45 - 8:50 am EST  

  • Opening comments

8:50 - 9:00 am EST  

9:00 - 9:20 am EST: Why has It taken so long? Identifying and addressing conceptual, estimation, political, and budget barriers to extended national accounts

9:20 - 10:20 am EST: Evolution of national accounting for the environment and relevance today

10:20 - 10:50 am EST


10:50 - 11:05 am EST: Policy Action Session

11:05 - 11:25 am EST

  • Jed Kolko, (Dept of Commerce, Under Secretary of Economic Affairs)

11:25 - 11:45 am EST: Measuring what counts - How to create tools supporting sustainability transformation

11:45 - 12:00 pm EST

  • Rohini Pande in conversation with Jed Kolko and Csaba Kőrösi 

12:00 - 1:30 pm EST


1:30 - 2:30 pm EST: How economic measurement needs to evolve to account for environment, climate, nature, and other public goods

2:30 - 2:50 pm EST: A new era of economic measurement for the coming era of environmentally-dependent economic growth

2:50 - 3:20 pm EST


3:20 - 4:20 pm EST: The role of the environment in the future of economic growth

4:20 - 5:15 pm EST: Keynote

5:15 - 6:45 pm EST



Speaker Bio
Steven Berry is the David Swensen Professor in the Economics Department at Yale University, specializing in the empirical analysis of markets in equilibrium. He is currently the inaugural Faculty Director of the Tobin Center at Yale, a research center focusing on domestic economic policy. Berry is a winner of the Frisch Medal of the Econometric Society and is an elected Fellow of that society. He is also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was named the 2017 Distinguished Fellow of the Industrial Organization Society and is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. At Yale, he has served as Economics Department Chair and as Director of the Division of Social Sciences. 
Dr. Landefeld was director of the BEA for nearly twenty years. Prior to coming to BEA, he was Special Assistant/Chief of Staff for the Council of Economic Advisers. Since his retirement from BEA, he has served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and an adviser and consultant to various organizations, including the BEA and the United Nations. His current research focuses on measuring the transformation of retail trade and the development of “satellite” accounts that better measure economic well-being and production. Dr. Landefeld has chaired and been a member of United Nations, OECD, IMF, NBER-CRIW, NAS, and other international and national committees.
Spencer Banzhaf is a Professor at North Carolina State University, the director of The Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy, and the editor of the Review of Environmental Economics and Policy.  His primary field of study is the economics of environmental policy, especially related to the valuation of environmental improvements.  His research has been published in such places as the American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, and other outlets.  His new book, Pricing the Priceless, published by Cambridge University Press, traces the history of environmental valuation and pricing. 
Dennis Fixler is Chief Economist of the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Dr. Fixler is primarily responsible for statistical quality including source data, methods, interagency data sharing, dissemination policies, and leading selected research efforts. He also coordinates cross-program research projects.
Prior to joining BEA in June 2001, Dr. Fixler was at the Bureau of Labor Statistics; most recently serving as Chief of the Division of Price and Index Number Research. Previous positions were at the Federal Trade Commission and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 
Ethan Addicott is an environmental economist in the Department of Economics and Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute at the University of Exeter. He specializes in natural capital valuation and accounting, spillover effects of resource management and the appraisal of nature-based solutions. His research integrates biogeophysical and economic data to better understand the relationships between produced, cultural/heritage, and natural capital. 
Professor Linda J. Bilmes is a leading expert on budgeting and public finance. She served as Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Department of Commerce from 1998 to 2001. She is the United States member of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Public Administration, appointed jointly by the UN Secretary-General and the US government. Dr. Bilmes holds the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer Chair in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, where she teaches courses on budgeting, cost accounting and public finance. She is Faculty Chair of the Senior Managers in Government Program, and two field labs, the Greater Boston Applied Climate Field Lab and the Field Lab for the Bloomberg Harvard Cities Leadership Initiative.
Rohini Pande is the Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics as well as the Director of the Economic Growth Center, and Faculty Director of Inclusion Economics, Yale University. She is a co-editor of American Economic Review: Insights. Pande studies how formal and informal institutions shape power relationships and patterns of economic, political, and environmental advantage in society, particularly in developing countries. She is interested the role of public policy in providing the poor and disadvantaged political and economic power, and how notions of economic justice and human rights can help justify and enable such change. 
Jed Kolko is Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs. In this position, Kolko coordinates economic analysis for the Commerce Department and provides direction and oversight for the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Chief Economist in the Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs.
Before joining the Commerce Department, Kolko served as chief economist at Indeed, a global jobs site, and Trulia, an online real-estate firm in the United States. 
As a career diplomat, Csaba Körössi has spent his entire professional life in public service, combining national duties with assignments received from various international communities. He had the privilege to serve as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN and as Head of Mission to Greece and the United Arab Emirates.
In various government service posts for his home country, he was responsible for security policy, multilateral diplomacy and human rights cooperation. During his tenure in New York, he was honored to be a co-chair of the intergovernmental process (Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals) tasked with producing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals at its heart.
Mr. Kroese is Chief Statistician, Data Officer, and Director of the Statistics Department at the IMF. Before joining the Fund, he worked for 25 years at Statistics Netherlands. He served in various expert, management, and (senior) director roles in the fields of methodology and economic statistics. From 2013 until 2022, he acted as Deputy Director-General and CIO with special focus on and responsibility for IT and Innovation. In 2014 and 2020 (at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic), he was acting Director-General for a short stint.
Nationally and internationally, he has been especially active in the fields of innovation and environmental-economic statistics. He has chaired the UN Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting (UNCEEA) for seven years. 
Carl Obst is a Director at the Institute for Development of Environmental-Economic Accounting - IDEEA Group. Carl was the lead author and editor of the United Nation’s System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) – the international standard for government work on accounting for natural capital and encompassing accounting for ecosystem and biodiversity values. Carl has also been leading the development of sector level statistical concepts including frameworks for the measurement of sustainable tourism with the UN World Tourism Organization, and the design of the multiple capitals-based evaluation framework for TEEBAgriFood. 
His current work involves a wide range of projects on natural capital accounting and sustainability measurement within the United Nations system and with various companies and governments both in Australia and internationally.
Matthew Agarwala is an economist interested in wealth-based approaches to measuring and delivering sustainability, wellbeing, and productivity. His research is motivated by the belief that 21st century progress cannot be described by 20th century statistics. Matthew leads the Bennett Institute’s Wealth Economy project, which seeks to transform economic measurement to better reflect sustainability, inequality, and human wellbeing.
Matthew regularly consults for governments and scientific organizations on topics of natural capital, ecosystem services, green finance, wellbeing, and sustainability.
Eli Fenichel is the Knobloch Family Professor of Natural Resource Economics at Yale School of the Environment and an EGC affiliate. His research approaches natural resource management and sustainability as a portfolio management problem by considering natural resources as a form of capital. He is interested in how people can and do allocate natural resources and natural resource risks through time.  This leads to a strong interest in feedbacks among humans, ecosystems, and the management of coupled ecological-economic processes. Exploring the economic measurement of and accounting for natural resources is central to his research, and he continues to ask critical questions around human behavior and the dynamics of infectious diseases.
Sarah Kapnick, Ph.D., serves as chief scientist for NOAA, where she is responsible for guiding the programmatic focus of NOAA’s science and technology priorities. Her expertise in climate science has made her a trusted resource across the federal government and for national and international outlets and publications such as the Associated Press, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, PBS, BBC, the Today Show, National Public Radio, Time, Popular Science, and National Geographic.
Prior to her current role, Dr. Kapnick previously held a position as a physical scientist and deputy division leader on seasonal to decadal variability and predictability at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). 
Nicholas Muller is the Lester and Judith Lave Professor of Economics, Engineering, and Public Policy at CMU Tepper School of Business, and works at the intersection of environmental policy and economics. His interdisciplinary research projects focus on estimating individual discount rates and risk preferences using historical pricing data, comparing air pollution and climate damages from electric vehicles to conventional vehicles, estimating air pollution damage from energy production, measuring the impact of transporting freight in the United State on air pollution and climate, and analyzing the inequality in market and augmented measures of income. He teaches microeconomics and environmental and natural resource economics and has published papers in the American Economic Review, Science, and Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. 
Elizabeth K. Kiser serves as Senior Associate Director in the Federal Reserve Board’s Division of Research and Statistics, with more than 25 years’ experience in policy analysis and research in financial stability, banking structure and competition, and economic and financial risks arising from climate change. Dr. Kiser provides leadership for staff research on climate and economic activity and serves on the Fed’s Supervision and Financial Stability Climate Committees. She has published on a range of topics in industrial organization, banking competition, payments, and financial stability, and co-authored the Fed’s first Financial Stability Report box on climate risks and a FEDS Note framing climate risks for financial stability.
Charles I. (Chad) Jones is the STANCO 25 Professor of Economics at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the Econometric Society, a co-editor of Econometrica, and the author of two undergraduate textbooks.
Professor Jones is noted for his research on long-run economic growth. In particular, he has examined theoretically and empirically the fundamental sources of growth in incomes over time and the reasons underlying the enormous differences in standards of living across countries.
Ehsan Masood joined Nature in 2019 from the science policy magazine Research Fortnight. He has degrees in physics and in science communication, and currently edits Nature’s editorials pages, and well as overseeing news from Africa and the Middle East. 
Dr. Indy Burke is an ecosystem ecologist whose research has focused on carbon and nitrogen cycling in dryland ecosystems. She received her B.S. in Biology from Middlebury College and her Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Wyoming, and has taught at Colorado State University and the University of Wyoming.  Her work with graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and colleagues has addressed how drylands are influenced by land use management, climatic variability, and regional variability.  She teaches in the fields of environmental science, ecosystem ecology, and biogeochemistry. 
William Nordhaus is Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. He was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico (which is part of the United States). He completed his undergraduate work at Yale University in 1963 and received his Ph.D. in Economics in 1967 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2018 "for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis."
Nordhaus joined the faculty of Yale University in 1967 and has been Full Professor of Economics since 1973. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.