Welcome to this class. The fall of 2011 is a particularly good time to be studying environmental economics. Here in the USA, environmental questions are at the forefront. Should the EPA tighten ozone emissions regulations? Should the Obama administration approve the Keystone XL Pipeline? What can be done about climate change? Elsewhere, policymakers face biting questions: for example, should China loosen or tighten environmental standards?
Environmental economics does not provide answers to these questions. What it does offer – in a manner that distinguishes it from other approaches to public-policy decision-making – is first a rich theoretical perspective on how to answer such questions. Second, it provides a suite of theoretically-based policy tools that are designed to achieve socially-desirable outcomes at the lowest possible cost.
You should expect to work hard in this class. You should also expect to enjoy and in some ways celebrate the material. As we will study together, the ideas of environmental economics – even if under attack too often in the current political context – have made a real difference for many people over the last few decades. With the help of new ideas and leaders, they will continue to in the future.
I look forward to this class.
Professor Jon Isham