Changing Climate, Changing Economy

Changing Climate, Changing Economy

The Cournot Centre series

Edited by Jean-Philippe Touffut

How did climate change become an economic issue? Why is economic discourse so influential on the public policy of climate change? How can it best contribute to the scientific and public debates? Nine eminent scholars explain in this book both how economics has changed environmental understanding and how the study of climate change has modified the economy.

Introduction: Changing Climate, Changing Economists?

Jean-Philippe Touffut

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics


Jean-Philippe Touffut Climate issues have only recently become of interest to disciplines outside climatology. Up until the late 1970s, historians, geographers and economists rarely touched on the subject.1 In 1988, politicians seized the occasion of a meeting of the G7 and the General Assembly of the United Nations to introduce it into their discourse and to officially solicit economic expertise on the matter. Ten years later, 172 countries signed the Kyoto Protocol, setting a timetable for reducing the emission of six greenhouse gases, together considered to be the main cause of global warming over the last 50 years. The role of economists has grown constantly since then, to such a point that their discourse seems to have gained equal pertinence to that of climatologists on the subject today (Hirshleifer, 1985). Economists do not generally work in a hybrid manner, as their approach to the fields of sociology, anthropology and law bears witness. They typically adopt their economic methods and apply them to their subjects of study. This volume is not only another occasion for climate economists to develop their analyses and formulate recommendations; it is also an opportunity to reconsider all that is at stake with their appropriation of this field. Ten years after the signing of the Protocol, the results obtained remain a far cry from the exhortations of Kyoto. What was the role of economics in the scientific and political debates of that period? Although at the origin of international negotiations leading up to the Protocol, climatologists quickly...