A video of the entire event is available here. Having learned so much from Marty Weitzman, including during the 26 years that he and I have been co-hosting the Harvard Seminar in Environmental Economics and PolicyI was delighted to moderate the symposium.
The workshop began with a keynote address by former U. Chan School of Public Health. Given the subject of the workshop, most of the panelists focused their comments on the current political scene and the current U.
I took a broader, somewhat historical view, and as the only economist on the panel, I commented on the relationship of economic research to policy making. I tried to make three points: I think not, because such economic ammunition can help win a policy battle.
A repeated theme from this set of economists was the reality that CEA typically had more influence by helping others in the Executive Office of the President in their efforts to stop bad ideas than by itself promoting good ideas.
When Windows of Opportunity Open, Move Quickly Two examples stand out for me of the importance of moving quickly when windows of opportunity open in the policy world to implement research ideas. Harnessing Market Forces to Protect the Environment.
This idea resonated with the incoming administration of President George H. Bushparticularly with the Counsel to the President, Boyden Gray. The other example I mentioned to highlight the importance of moving quickly when windows of opportunity open in the policy world is associated with the negotiations carried out annually under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC.
At the Harvard Project on Climate Agreementswe recognized that negotiators around the world were suddenly open to outside-the-box thinking. First, whereas I had assumed that the Lead Authors LAs serving on our writing team were there only to represent their respective scientific expertise in economics, legal scholarship, international relations, etc.
I was disappointed and dismayed by the process and its outcome. Fortunately, I learned from that experience and my attitude and behavior was quite different just six months later, when I found myself in Copenhagen for what was essentially the final stage of the entire five-year enterprise of research, writing, and government approval of the various reports of IPCC AR5, namely the government approval sessions for the Synthesis Report SYRwhich summarizes and synthesizes the key findings from all three Working Group reports.
I had learned my lesson. Rather than disdaining the politics of the occasion, I embraced it and spent the week in Copenhagen in careful negotiations with the key national governments, the result of which was that all of the essential text on international cooperation and agreements was preserved in the Synthesis Report.
Ironically, by recognizing, accepting, and indeed participating in the fundamentally political aspects of the IPCC government approval process, I was able to keep the report of research from itself being politicized.
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