Swedish academy slights United States, Americans fail to notice

Ashley Chen | Views Layout Editor

While Americans were focused on contentious domestic news stories, the Swedish Academy made a sly statement of international significance. By awarding Paul Romer and William Nordhaus the 2018 Nobel Prize in the field of economics, the Swedish Academy took a stance against the Trump administration’s climate policies.

Generally speaking, the U.S. has historically taken conservative stances on climate change. But even by American standards, the Trump administration has moved radically against environmental regulation by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and by disbanding an Environmental Protection Agency panel on responsible air quality control.

Both Nordhaus and Romer earned status in economics through climate-related research. Nordhaus’ research has primarily focused on addressing climate change through economic mechanisms. Additionally, he’s famously researched the economic costs of climate change and has become a fierce advocate for universal carbon taxes.

Romer, the former vice president and the chief economist of the World Bank, has made his name by researching endogenous growth theory – an area of economics concerned with promoting innovative solutions to complex problems, including environmental degradation. His work suggests that considerable government regulation is necessary in order to find solutions to global climate change.

There is no doubt that Romer and Nordhaus earned the prize due to the merit of their research. But still, their victory is a clear political message from the Swedish Academy directed at the United States: climate change is real, and America’s laissez-faire policies are problematic.

Whether the issue is enhancing development and innovation through state-sponsored programs or developing taxes for carbon emissions, both Nordhaus and Romer are calling the government into action. This year’s Nobel laureates have enshrined the benefits of state intervention in the market.  

These suggestions directly oppose the Trump administration, climate change denial and conventional Republican approaches to both environmental and economic regulation.

As an international student at Tulane, stories like these frequently capture my attention. But all too often, Tulane students never hear about international stories, so they miss out on a vital perspective. I urge my fellow students to look at events like these from an international point of view, not only to learn more about the rest of the world, but also to understand the growing divide between the U.S. and its allies.

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