An EconTalk Podcast Listening Guide

Robert Pindyck on Climate Change

Listen to the EconTalk podcast Robert Pindyck on Climate Change and consider these questions.

1. Describe the “climate change dilemma,” according to Pindyck. To what extent is this the same dilemma typically addressed in public discourse?

2. What do Roberts and Pindyck mean by “the discount rate,” and why does it make “a huge difference” in considering the above dilemma?

3. Roberts notes that Pindyck is unique in that he breaks the discount rate into two parts. What are these two parts, and why does Pindyck believe the distinction to be so crucial?

4. What are integrated assessment models, and why does such a great amount of uncertainty seem to be inherent in them?

5. What do we know and what do we not know about climate change, according to Pindyck?

6. Roberts and Pindyck mention several potential effects of climate change that are not caused by humans. What are some of these potential effects, and why is no one talking about them? How much importance do you think these should receive in the policy sphere?

7. What are the problems associated with a “wait-and-see” approach to climate change, according to Pindyck? How much confidence do you have in the potential for future scientific or technological advances to ameliorate climate change, and why?

8. Pindyck argues that if the tax on oil in the United States were to double, this would have even less effect on the economy than the oil crises of the 1970s and 80s. Why does he suggest this, and to what extent do you agree?

9. On what bases does Roberts challenge Pindyck’s reliance on the precautionary principle? With whom are you in more agreement, and why? What do you think the appropriate discount rate should be in determining climate change policy?

10. At the end of the interview, Pindyck stresses that he is more worried about potential crises on the horizon than he is about climate change. What are some of the possibilities he is worried about, and to what extent do you share his concern?