We have just released the newest episode of our podcast, “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.” In this latest episode, I engage in a conversation with Scott Barrett, who – more than any other environmental economist I can name – is exceptionally well equipped, based on his research and experience, to reflect intelligently on the coronavirus pandemic, and public policies to address it.
Scott is the Lenfest-Earth Institute Professor of Natural Resource Economics at Columbia University, where he also serves as Vice Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs. Readers of this blog will recognize Scott as one of the world’s leading authorities analyzing alternative approaches to addressing the threat of climate change through international treaties, but he has also written for more than a decade on an economic perspective on global infectious disease policy.
In addition to his scholarly work, Scott has served as an advisor to many international organizations, including the European Commission, the OECD, the World Bank, and the United Nations, and he and I worked together when we were Lead Authors of the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Also, I’m very pleased to say that Scott has been a frequent participant in our programs and projects at Harvard, and has been my co-author on a number of occasions.
In this podcast episode, Professor Barrett assesses the massive global efforts underway to address COVID-19 and the potential impacts of the pandemic on our lives in the future. He describes how COVID-19 will be a “persistent challenge” and will result in “fundamental changes in society.” Turning to domestic U.S. policy, he comments that “what really stands out is the failure of the United States to be prepared. It’s clear that our inability to do testing has really compromised the health and well-being of Americans.” Calling it “an equitable scourge,” Scott notes that the pandemic is affecting people from all levels of income and wealth, and that “it’s in everyone’s best interest that we control it.”
Comparing the COVID-19 outbreak to the Plague in the 14th century and the Spanish Flu of 1918-19, Scott remarks, “I think this is going to have profound changes that will last at least a generation. It’s hard to know exactly what those changes will be, but there will be changes in terms of how we understand our relationship with each other, to technology, to science, to government, to international institutions. I think all of this is in play right now.”
All of this and much more is found in the newest episode of “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.” Listen to this latest discussion here, where, by the way, you can also find a complete transcript of our conversation.
My conversation with Scott Barrett is the eighth episode in the Environmental Insights series. Previous episodes have featured conversations with:
- Gina McCarthy, former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Nick Stern of the London School of Economics discussing his career, British politics, and efforts to combat climate change
- Andrei Marcu, founder and executive director of the European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition
- Paul Watkinson, Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Jos Delbeke, professor at the European University Institute in Florence and at the KU Leuven in Belgium, and formerly Director-General of the European Commission’s DG Climate Action
- David Keith, professor at Harvard and a leading authority on geoengineering.
- Joe Aldy, professor of the practice of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, with considerable experience working on climate change policy issues in the U.S. government.