Gernot Wagner

Economist, Author, and ESPP Lecturer

“It’s fun to be back at Harvard and in the ESPP family. Though I certainly feel like I never really left. There wasn’t a day during my eight years at the Environmental Defense Fund when I didn’t refer back to at least one of my classes or classmates. Whether it was Rob Stavins’s intro to environmental economics—what I’d call intro to tradeoffs, aka common sense—or Bill Clark’s and Sheila Jasanoff’s classes on sustainability and environmental politics, respectively.

   Then, of course, there’s the hard sciences, and, for that matter, basic statistics. It’s frightening how over 35 years of amazing advances in climate science, we have not been able to narrow the ‘likely’ range of perhaps the key parameter: climate sensitivity, linking concentrations or carbon dioxide to eventual temperatures. Adding economics back into the equation, it’s precisely that deep-seated uncertainty that is costly to us, now—what puts the ‘shock’ into my recently published book with Martin L. Weitzman, Climate Shock.

   My current research focus is on solar geoengineering, working with David Keith to help build a research program around the topic at Harvard. It’s also a topic where ESPP comes full circle. If climate alone touches virtually every discipline, solar geoengineering does so on overdrive—and with some surprising twists. The task now isn’t to coax people into acting, it may be to stop lone actors. But first and foremost, we need to break the taboo and actually research the topic. No place better to do that than Harvard.”
-ESPP ’02, M.A. ’06, Ph.D. ’07