Events & Media




"What Are You Going to Do About It?
The effect of uncertainty on climate change policy"

Steve Polasky
Professor of Ecological/Environmental Economics
University of Minnesota

Tuesday, May 12, 2015
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

Taking action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions imposes costs now in order to avoid potentially very large costs from more severe climate change in the future. Just how large those future costs are likely to be is subject to considerable uncertainty. Some climate science points to the possibility of crossing thresholds or tipping points with potentially disastrous consequences. How does uncertainty affect the optimal choice of climate change mitigation? Polasky will briefly review major sources of uncertainty and how incorporation of uncertainty alters the choice of optimal climate change policy. He will also discuss current debates on how best to frame climate change policy in light of uncertainty; whether it should be framed as setting limits on GHG concentrations to avoid potentially catastrophic damages or as an application of benefit-cost analysis.

Professor Stephen Polasky's research focuses on issues at the intersection of ecology and economics and includes work on the impacts of land use and land management on the provision and value of ecosystem services and natural capital, biodiversity conservation, sustainability, environmental regulation, and common property resources. He is a leader of the Natural Capital Project's effort to map and value environmental services, and he previously co-authored a regional study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Ecological Society of America titled "Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region: Impacts on our Communities and Ecosystems." Dr. Polsasky was the senior staff economist for environment and resources for the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1998-1999, and he served as associate editor and co-editor for the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management from 1996 to 2002. He is currently a member of the Environmental Economics Advisory Committee and the Committee on Valuing the Protection of Ecological Systems and Services for the Science Advisory Board at the US EPA, and a member of The Nature Conservancy's Science Council. He was elected as a Fellow of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists in 2011, the National Academy of Sciences in 2010, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007. 

The Zurich Financial Services Distinguished Visitors Program on Climate Change allows the Bren School to attract international leaders in environmental policy, law, business, and science to enrich and expand the intellectual life of the Bren School community and share insight on issues critical to climate change. Activities of the visitors, who are in residence for periods ranging from one week to one quarter, include teaching short courses, offering public lectures, conducting seminars, and leading colloquia and symposia planned around their research, professional endeavors, or areas of expertise.

NOTE: Community colloquia are generally talks of broad interest geared toward a diverse, sophisticated audience. Their purpose is not only to enhance knowledge and understanding, but also to bring people together and promote interaction that will strengthen the community.


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