May 31, 1941 |
Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.
School or tradition
|Alma mater||Yale University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
|Information at IDEAS / RePEc|
Education and career
Nordhaus received his B.A. and M.A from Yale in 1963 and 1973, respectively, where he was a member of Skull and Bones. He also holds a Certificat from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques (1962) and a Ph.D. from MIT (1967). He has been a member of the faculty at Yale since 1967 and has also served as its Provost from 1986–1988 and its Vice President for Finance and Administration from 1992–1993. His tenure as provost was among the shortest in the university's history. He has been on the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity since 1972. During the Carter administration, from 1977–1979, Nordhaus was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Nordhaus is the author or editor of over 20 books. He is the co-author of the textbook Economics, the original editions of which were written by Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson. The book is currently in its 19th edition and has been translated into at least 17 other languages.
He has also written several books on global warming and climate change, one of his primary areas of research. Those books include Managing the Global Commons: The Economics of Climate Change (1994), which won the 2006 Award for “Publication of Enduring Quality” from the Association of Environmental and Resource Economics. Another book, with Joseph Boyer, is Warming the World: Economic Models of Global Warming (2000). His most recent book is The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World.
In 1972 Nordhaus, along with fellow Yale economics professor James Tobin, published Is Growth Obsolete?, an article that introduced the Measure of Economic Welfare (Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare) as the first model for economic sustainability assessment.
Nordhaus is also known for his critique on current measures of national income. He wrote, "If we are to obtain accurate estimates of the growth of real incomes over the last century, we must somehow construct price indexes that account for the vast changes in the quality and range of goods and services that we consume, that somehow compare the services of horse with automobile, of Pony Express with facsimile machine, of carbon paper with photocopier, of dark and lonely nights with nights spent watching television, and of brain surgery with magnetic resonance imaging" (1997, 30).
Palda summarizes the importance of Nordhaus' insight as follows: "The practical lesson to be drawn from this fascinating study of lighting is that the way we measure the consumer price index is severely flawed. Instead of putting goods and their prices directly into the index we should reduce all goods to their constituent characteristics. Then we should evaluate how these goods can best be combined to minimize the cost of consuming these characteristics. Such an approach would allow us to include new goods in the consumer price index without worrying about whether the index of today is comparable to that of ten years ago when the good did not exist. Such an approach would also allow governments to more precisely calculate the rate at which welfare and other forms of aid should be increased. At present such calculations tend to overestimate the cost of living because they do not take into account the manner in which increases in quality reduce the monetary cost of maintaining a certain standard of living."
Contributions on economics of climate change
Nordhaus has written on the economics of climate change. He is the developer of the DICE and RICE models, integrated assessment models of the interplay between economics, energy use, and climate change.
In Reflections on the Economics of Climate Change (1993), he states: "Mankind is playing dice with the natural environment through a multitude of interventions – injecting into the atmosphere trace gases like the greenhouse gases or ozone-depleting chemicals, engineering massive land-use changes such as deforestation, depleting multitudes of species in their natural habitats even while creating transgenic ones in the laboratory, and accumulating sufficient nuclear weapons to destroy human civilizations." Under the climate change models he has developed, in general those sectors of the economy that depend heavily on unmanaged ecosystems – that is, are heavily dependent upon naturally occurring rainfall, runoff, or temperatures – will be most sensitive to climate change. Agriculture, forestry, outdoor recreation, and coastal activities fall in this category." Nordhaus takes seriously the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change.
The Review’s unambiguous conclusions about the need for extreme immediate action will not survive the substitution of discounting assumptions that are consistent with today’s market place. So the central questions about global-warming policy – how much, how fast, and how costly – remain open. The Review informs but does not answer these fundamental questions.
In 2013, Nordhaus chaired a committee of the National Research Council that produced a report discounting the impact of fossil fuel subsidies on greenhouse gas emissions.
Among many honors, he is a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and an Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences since 1999.
In 2004, Nordhaus was designated a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association (AEA), along with George P. Shultz and William A. Brock. The accompanying AEA statement referred to his "knack for asking large questions about the measurement of economic growth and well-being, and addressing them with simple but creative insights," among them, his pioneering work on the political business cycle, ways of using national income accounts data to devise economic measures reflecting better health, increases in leisure and life expectancy, and "constructing integrated economic and scientific models to determine the efficient path for coping with climate change". In 2013, Nordhaus became president-elect of the AEA.
- Nordhaus, William D. 1997. "Do Real Output and Real Wage Measures Capture Reality? The History of Light Suggests Not." The Economics of New Goods. Edited by Robert J. Gordon and Timothy F. Bresnahan. University of Chicago Press for the National Bureau of Economic Research. 27-70.
- Palda, Filip (2013). The Apprentice Economist: Seven Steps to Mastery. Cooper-Wolfling Press. ISBN 978-0987788047
- Nordhaus, W. D. '"Reflections on the economics of climate change", Journal of Economic Perspectives (1993); 7(4) 11–25 at p. 11
- Nordhaus, W. D. '"Reflections on the economics of climate change", Journal of Economic Perspectives (1993); 7(4) 11–25 at p. 15
- Nordhaus WD (November 1992). "An Optimal Transition Path for Controlling Greenhouse Gases" (PDF). Science 258 (5086): 1315–1319. doi:10.1126/science.258.5086.1315.
- Nordhaus, William (3 May 2007). "The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change" (PDF). Yale University.
- "U.S. Tax Code Has Minimal Effect on Carbon Dioxide and Other Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Report Says". National Academies. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- American Economic Association "Distinguished Fellows".
- • William D. Nordhaus, 1975. "The Political Business Cycle," Review of Economic Studies, 42(2), pp. 169-190.
• _____, 1989:2. "Alternative Approaches to the Political Business Cycle," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, p. p. 1-68.
- American Economic Association, 2004. "William D. Nordhaus, Distinguished Fellow".
- Officers of the American Economic Association, 2013
- William Nordhaus (Yale Home Page)
- The Question of Global Warming Nordhaus exchange with Freeman Dyson and others from The New York Review of Books
- Energy: Friend or Enemy? 27.October.2012 in The New York Review of Books