Solving the world’s biggest problems – from climate catastrophe and pandemics to wildfires and corporate malfeasance – requires, more than anything else, coming up with new ways to manage the powerful interactions that surround us. For carbon emissions and other environmental damage, this means ensuring that those responsible pay their full costs rather than continuing to pass them along to others, including future generations. In The Spirit of Green, Nobel Prize–winning economist William Nordhaus describes a new way of green thinking that would help us overcome our biggest challenges without sacrificing economic prosperity, in large part by accounting for the spillover costs of economic collisions.
In a discussion that ranges from the history of the environmental movement to the Green New Deal, Nordhaus explains how the spirit of green thinking provides a compelling and hopeful new perspective on modern life. At the heart of green thinking is a recognition that the globalized world is shaped not by isolated individuals but rather by innumerable interactions inside and outside the economy. He shows how rethinking economic efficiency, sustainability, politics, profits, taxes, individual ethics, corporate social responsibility, finance, and more would improve the effectiveness and equity of our society. And he offers specific solutions – on how to price carbon, how to pursue low-carbon technologies, how to design an efficient tax system, and how to foster international cooperation through climate clubs.
The result is a groundbreaking new vision of how we can have our environment and our economy too.
William D. Nordhaus, the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics, is the Sterling Professor of Economics and Professor in the School of the Environment at Yale University. His many books include The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World and A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
"Nordhaus's green compendium is rational and balanced [...] The author of The Spirit of Green clearly cares intensely about the climate, believes economics offers answers, and sees some welcome positive trends."
– Richard Beales, Reuters Breakingviews
"William Nordhaus, winner of the Nobel Prize for his pathbreaking contributions to the economics of climate change, shows clearly and eloquently that we have the reasons, economic tools, and technologies to achieve a Green Earth. He writes with great wisdom and insight on how we can achieve a 'well-managed society,' one that advances the wellbeing of current and future generations. And he demonstrates the power of economic tools, many of which he has designed or honed, to achieve our global green goals."
– Jeffrey D. Sachs, Columbia University, president of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network
"Brilliantly written, spectacularly clearheaded, and quietly passionate, The Spirit of Green is the best book I have ever read on environmentalism – on its foundations, on what it means, and on what it doesn't mean. If you're looking for a guide for humanity's future – and that of our planet's other species as well – well, this is it."
– Cass R. Sunstein, author of Averting Catastrophe
"The Spirit of Green is an extended essay, combining moral philosophy with conventional economics, on principles for a 'Green Society.' While favoring market capitalism, Nordhaus advocates regulations that counter harmful negative externalities. His prose is enlivened by his passion for sustainability and by pithy maxims such as 'tax bads, not goods.' "
– Robert O. Keohane, professor emeritus, Princeton University
"The Spirit of Green is all of economics seen through a green lens. Full of pithy and compelling examples, and clear and vivid writing, it is learned and deeply instructive – and even moving. Human evolution has equipped us with a capacity for making a good society embedded in the natural world, but we still must work thoughtfully to achieve a well-managed society, Nordhaus shows. This is especially the case in the last few thousand years as the size of our population, the sophistication of our technology, and our ability to change the natural world around us has grown. Nordhaus is a magnificent, soaring guide to the spirit of green that will be required for this deep and fundamental project so central to all of humanity."
– Nicholas A. Christakis, author of Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society