Nobel Prize Week

My Toast at the Climate Club Dinner

In my senior environmental economics class at Wesleyan, I ask students to write a first essay due on day 2 – tell me where you are from and describe your perspective of environmental issues.

On the last day of class, I return those essays and ask them what they have learned in the course.  How have your perspectives changed?  

I start the conversation with three fundamental insights from the class so as not to waste time:

  • Efficiency means marginal this means marginal that.  
  • The answer to every economics question is “It depends”, so the real question is what does it depend on?  
  • All fractions have numerators and denominators; keep track of both.

I always do the assignments that I ask of my students, and so anticipating that they would ask for my answers, I created a slide show to highlight what I think is most important about what I learned – It is all about people.

So, Bill, I offer these nouns, plus a few clauses, to describe you:

For many at this table, your are a

  • grandfather,
  • father,
  • father-in-law or brother-in-law, or
  • husband.

For the rest of us, you have been

  • a mentor and
  • a colleague.

For me, though, you have been

  • a Professor,
  • a tutor, and then 
  • a mentor and 
  • a colleague

By example, you have shown me how to conduct myself, and you have thereby validated lessons from my father.

And you quickly became an inspiration for all that I have done.

More than that, by virtue of one phone call in 1980 about an Academy Report, you changed my life.  You brought me into a small but growing community of economists who worried about climate change.

So, Professor Nordhaus, I am forever in your debt.  Thank you for all that you have done for me.

And, cheers for all of your accomplishments and insights, and also for the Prize.