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Science and Values in Climate Risk Management - Geoffrey Heal

by Betsy VanNoy Feb 24, 2020
When Feb 24, 2020
from 11:05 AM to 11:05 AM
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From geoffreyheal.com 

I am a Professor of Economics at Columbia Business School. My main academic interests are in economic theory and environmental economics. I am also actively involved with environmental organizations, being on the board of directors of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Chair of the Board of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations and on the Advisory Board of the Environmental Defense Fund. Photography, particularly nature photography, and birdwatching have been lifelong hobbies.

I teach courses on advanced microeconomic theorycurrent developments in energy markets, the impact of climate change on business and economic aspects of corporate social responsibility.

My recent books include Endangered Economies: Why the Neglect of Nature Threatens Our ProsperityWhen Principles Pay: Corporate Social Responsibility and the Bottom LineNature and the Marketplace, and Valuing the Future: Economic Theory and Sustainability.

I’m a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the Econometric Society and of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (of which I am Past President), and recipient of the Association’s prize for a publication of enduring quality. My full CV is here.

I was recently a member of the High Level Commission on Carbon Prices, which produced a report as a follow-up to the Paris 2015 climate meeting on the implementation of carbon prices: the report is here. And before that I was a member of a commission that wrote a report for then-President Sarkozy of France on improving the measurement of economic performance and social progress, which is here.


This lecture is hosted by the Climate and Sustainability Ethics Initiative in the Rock Ethics Institute.

Here is a synopsis of the work from this initiative:

The evidence suggests[1] that global climate change is impacting basic human needs such as food, water, health, and shelter.  The changes are affecting individuals and groups differently.  Certain groups of people are particularly sensitive to climate change impacts, such as the elderly, the infirm, children, native and tribal groups, and low-income populations.   Impacts are likely to differ in both magnitude and rate of change in different continents, countries, and regions. There are also concerns that conflicts, migrations, health impacts, or environmental stresses in other parts of the world could raise national security issues.

Who bears responsibility for protecting those whose basic rights are threatened by climate change? What constitutes an ethically justifiable response? These are just a few of the urgent ethical questions raised by climate change. The goal of the Rock Ethics Institute is to partner with researchers, stakeholders, educators, and policy makers to insure that questions like this do not go unaddressed. Global, national, and regional solutions must be fair solutions.

Climate change poses historically unprecedented challenges and profound ethical questions – but also new opportunities for global innovation and cooperation.

Who Can Help
Policy makers: those who are engaged in policy discussions, from the local to the global level, and scientists who are informing policy-making processes

Teachers and Administrators: educators in K-12 and post-secondary settings

Leaders: people of all ages who strive to be ethically informed to Stand Up for global justice

How is Penn State Contributing?
Penn State is taking a leadership role in responding to global climate change. Penn State scientists have served as Lead Authors in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Penn State has joined the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge and pledged to reduce its building portfolio’s energy use by 20 percent by 2024. Penn State students have also taken on a leadership role. Through groups such as Eco-Action and initiatives like the newspaper recycling program and Friday Night Lights Out, students are helping to make Penn State an innovative leader in climate change response.

Research that focuses on ethically-informed decision support in response to climate change is a unique signature of this initiative.  This work is a central emphasis of the Center for Climate Risk Management (CLIMA) https://www.clima.psu.edu/.  CLIMA brings together scholars to catalyze transformative, integrated research on climate change, mitigation, adaptation, and decision making that transcends disciplinary boundaries and advances real-world climate risk management.  Ethically-informed decision support research has also been supported by the National Science Foundation through two major grants: the Sustainable Climate Risk Management (SCRiM) network scrimhub.org.  Centered at Penn State, SCRiM links a transdisciplinary team of scholars at universities and research institutions across many nations to answer the question, “What are sustainable, scientifically sound, technologically feasible, economically efficient, and ethically defensible climate risk management strategies?” and Visualizing Forest Futures (ViFF https://sites.google.com/a/pdx.edu/visualizing-forest-futures/)  a new approach to sustainable forest management under climate change that links human values, projections and visualization to decision-making under uncertainty. 

The Rock Ethics Institute is also a partner with the International Association of Environmental Philosophy and has partnered to publish the Environmental Philosophy journal. 

The Rock Ethics Institute supports Penn State in its efforts to become an ethical exemplar in meeting the global challenge of climate change, and we urge the larger University community to become informed of these and the many other ways Penn State is Standing Up for climate justice.

Convener: Richard DuschlKlaus Keller, Nancy Tuana