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Economic Thought and U.S. Climate Change Policy

Edited by David M. Driesen

Publication Year: 2010

Experts examine how reliance on free markets contributed to the U.S. failure to address climate change and offer recommendations for new ideas to guide policy.

Published by: The MIT Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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Series Foreword

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pp. ix-xi

As the unprecedented economic crisis of 2008–2009 demonstrated well, ideas about the way markets and government behave can be exceptionally important. Public policy tends to reflect prevailing ideas, particularly when they are widely shared, and a good example is the commitment to...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book grew from the work of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR), a virtual think tank at the forefront of developing ideas to further environmental safety. CPR’s leadership asked me to formulate a plan for the organization’s climate change work. It seemed that an organization...


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pp. xv-17

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pp. 1-17

Until recently, U.S. climate change policy has appalled the world. The United States, formerly a world leader in addressing international environmental challenges, became the most important developed country opponent of vigorous action on climate change in the 1990s. It successfully...

I - The Neoliberal Model’s Contribution to U.S. Failure to Address Climate Change

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pp. 19-37

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1 - The United States’ Failure to Act

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pp. 21-44

In the relatively brief period between 1970 and 1980, the United States took great strides forward in addressing substantial environmental problems, enacting many of the laws that laid the foundation for the country’s current approach to a broad range of environmental problems. Progress...

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2 - Dirty Energy Policy

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pp. 45-60

Fossil fuel energy policy is a paradigmatic example of how an idea, a peculiar free market ideology, has captured U.S. politics and markets to the benefit of industry interests and to the detriment of environmentally sensitive and economically valuable alternatives. Neoliberal free market...

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3 - Cost-Benefit Analysis of Climate Change: Where It Goes Wrong

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pp. 61-81

While the climate science debate is approaching closure on the big questions, the climate economics debate is just beginning. Doubt or uncertainty about the science is no longer important in shaping public policy; the influence of the climate skeptics is rapidly diminishing. Instead, the...

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4 - Anatomy of Industry Resistance to Climate Change: A Familiar Litany

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pp. 83-105

American industries have long been hostile to environmental regulations that increase operating costs and reduce profits. Although industry may have been unprepared for, and thus poorly organized to resist, early federal environmental legislation,1 it quickly marshaled its forces. Regulated...

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5 - The Abandonment of Justice

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pp. 107-127

Public policy discussions are increasingly framed (and confined) by the rhetoric, values, and assumptions of economic theory. But with its single-minded focus on efficiency, or aggregate social welfare, economic theory explicitly and self-consciously ignores the distribution of wealth and...

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6 - Neoliberal Instrument Choice

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pp. 129-149

Economic theory has profoundly influenced policymakers’ thinking about the selection of instruments to effectuate environmental policy goals. And this thinking about the economics of instrument choice has powerfully influenced the United States, leading its government to strongly support...

II - Moving Forward

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pp. 151-169

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7 - Collective and Individual Duties to Address Global Warming

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pp. 153-169

Global warming has resulted from too many people and businesses producing too much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, thus disrupting the carbon dioxide balance in the atmosphere. In turn, this imbalance leads to the gradual and possibly catastrophic warming of the...

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8 - Embracing a Precautionary Approach to Climate Change

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pp. 171-196

We have seen that the neoliberal framing of climate change relies heavily on cost-benefit analysis, as a proxy for the market, to guide and even to determine appropriate regulatory responses. Cost-benefit analysis implies, however, that we can determine with some accuracy the environmental...

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9 - Climate Change, Human Health, and the Post-Cautionary Principle

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pp. 197-211

In the summer of 2003, at least 20,000 people died in a heat wave that spanned western Europe. France lost the most lives: 14,802, according to a government report produced in the aftermath of the tragedy. Thousands of people also died in Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Germany,...

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10 - The Cost of Greenhouse Gas Reductions

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pp. 213-235

The debate over whether greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contribute to global warming is over. Although large uncertainties continue to cloud the science related to the relationship between particular GHGs and the pronounced elevation in global temperatures during the last century and...

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11 - Toward Distributional Justice

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pp. 237-255

As we saw in chapter 5, the problem of climate change is permeated with inequity. Neither responsibility for causing global warming nor vulnerability to its effects is distributed equally across space or time. With just 20 percent of the world’s population, the developed countries have contributed...

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12 - Toward Sustainable Technology

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pp. 257-276

We should think of environmental policy as a means of stimulating sustainable technology—technologies that will enable us to meaningfully address global warming while achieving other societal goals.1 We must fundamentally change how we think about instrument choice in order to...

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13 - Adaptation, Economics, and Justice

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pp. 277-295

International efforts to combat the threat of global warming correctly emphasize greenhouse gas reduction. But for developing countries, whose communities could be wiped out by one sustained drought or misplaced hurricane, the long road to abatement is not enough. Developing countries...

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Conclusion: Toward a Fresh Start

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pp. 297-306

This book shows how neoliberalism led to the United States’ failure to adequately address global climate change. In doing so, this book shows that environmental policy does not function, as is sometimes supposed, as simply an arcane policy domain of its own. Rather, general economic...


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pp. 307-340


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pp. 341-356

E-ISBN-13: 9780262312479
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262042529

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2010