Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Climate Clubs: The Central Role of the Social Sciences in Climate Change Policy

William D. Nordhaus

Sterling Professor of Economics, Yale University

November 4, 2015, 5:00pm-7:00pm
Science Center A, 1 Oxford Street


Much progress has been made by scientists and economists in understanding the science, technologies, and policies involved in climate change and reducing emissions. Notwithstanding this progress, it has up to now proven difficult to induce countries to join in an international agreement with significant reductions in emissions. The talk suggests that the Kyoto Protocol ran aground because of the tendency of countries to free-ride on the efforts of others for global public goods. It discusses how this tendency is rooted in international law, and examines the ways that nations have overcome free-riding in other areas. The article examines the “club model” as a mechanism to provide public goods and overcome free-riding. It examines the idea of a Climate Club and suggests that current approaches, starting with the Kyoto Protocol and continuing with the upcoming Paris meeting, have little chance of success unless they adopt some of the strategies associated with the club model of international agreements. Video of this lecture is located here.  


Michael Grubb

Institute for Sustainable Resources, University College London

David Keith

Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics

Richard Zeckhauser

Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Political Economy

Moderated by

Sheila Jasanoff

Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies

About the speaker

William D. Nordhaus is Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale University.  He is on the research staff of the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Cowles Foundation for Research.  He holds a B.A. and M.A. from Yale University and a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 1977 to 1979, he was a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.  Dr. Nordhaus is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Econometric Society, and the American Philosophical Association, and is past president of the American Economic Association. His research has encompassed environmental economics, climate change, health economics, augmented national accounting, the political business cycle, and productivity.  His latest book is The Climate Casino (Yale Press), published in 2013.