International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics > Vol 15 > Issue 3

What Should We Be Teaching Students about the Economics of Climate Change: Is There a Consensus?

Lynne Y. Lewis, Elmer W. Campbell Professor of Economics, Bates College, USA, , Casey J. Wichman, School of Economics, Georgia Institute of Technology and Resources for the Future, Washington, DC, USA,
Suggested Citation
Lynne Y. Lewis and Casey J. Wichman (2021), "What Should We Be Teaching Students about the Economics of Climate Change: Is There a Consensus?", International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics: Vol. 15: No. 3, pp 203-233.

Publication Date: 27 Sep 2021
© 2021 L. Y. Lewis and C. J. Wichman
Environmental economics
JEL Codes: A2Q5Q54
Climate changeeconomic educationclimate economicsenvironmental economicslearning goals


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In this article:
1 Introduction 
2 Background 
3 What Do Environmental and Resource Economists Think We Should Be Teaching Students of Climate Economics? 
4 Concluding Thoughts 


Research on the economics of climate change has advanced drastically in the last 20 years, but how has treatment of climate change evolved in the classroom? Many economics, environmental studies, and public policy departments now offer climate economics and climate policy courses, but it is unclear what topics are covered, what resources are used, and with what knowledge students are expected to walk away. In this paper, we assess what topics are (or should be) taught in climate economics courses, how those topics have shifted over time, and what learning goals are articulated for students. Our assessment is based on a review of common teaching materials, an informal collection of syllabi, and the results from a survey of environmental and resource economists. Overall, there is a reasonable degree of consensus on the key topics for inclusion across survey respondents, although some topics may complement or crowd out those in standard courses in environmental and resource economics. Despite relatively broad consensus on topics, we find that climate economics courses can diverge greatly in practice, perhaps because there is no central teaching resource used across courses. We conclude constructively by proposing a set of learning goals that instructors can draw from and build upon, which we hope will aid in developing shared expectations for what students will learn in a climate economics course.



International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, Volume 15, Issue 3 Special Issue - Evolutions and Salience in the Teaching of Environmental and Resource Economics: Articles Overiew
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.