State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Zero-Carbon Economy is Within Reach, Says Climate Economist

The world economy is set to double in size within the next 20 years. At the same time, we need to slash carbon emissions by 40 percent of current levels. That’s a daunting challenge, but in a recent talk at Columbia University, one of the world’s leading climate economists, Nicholas Stern from the London School of Economics, outlined how we could meet it:

In the talk, which was co-sponsored by The Earth Institute and the School of International and Public Affairs, Stern explained that building smart, clean, sustainable infrastructure will be key to meeting the world’s economic and carbon-cutting needs. It also offers an opportunity to make sure that economic growth helps to reduce poverty and inequality.

“I am optimistic about what we can do,” said Stern. “I’m deeply worried about whether we will do, and the consequences of not doing.”

He emphasized that the next two decades will be critical to staving off the worst impacts of climate change, and cautioned that the economic changes that need to happen won’t come easy — they require quite a bit of political willpower.

Fortunately, said Stern, “Political will is a renewable resource.”

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