Political Economics of Energy and Climate Change


Humanity faces perhaps its greatest-ever collective challenge in the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent catastrophic global climate change. Many of the solutions for doing so involve changes to how societies produce and consume energy, specifically by improving energy efficiency and employing more renewable energy. In this course, we will examine the threat that climate change poses and how we may avoid its worst impacts from the perspectives of both environmental and ecological economics. How should the present generation value the impact of its actions on future generations? How should societies determine the proportion of resources to devote to mitigating climate change instead of adapting to its impacts? Who should reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and by how much? What are the political and institutional barriers to doing so? Which policies can best be used to regulate emissions? Why is renewable energy such a small portion of the energy portfolio in most economies? Exploring these questions will involve investigating economic theory and the political economy of climate change policy both in the United States and in other major economies, and we will consider how a low-emissions economy can be more equitable and improve well-being for most of its constituents.