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Economists say their expertise can help solve environmental problems

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Louis Johnston
Louis Johnston
Tim Post | MPR News file

When thinking about environmental concerns, most people rely on experts in the natural sciences to explain what's going on. But economists think their professional expertise is invaluable because they can go beyond describing the problems... and offer insights on how to actually fix them.

What are the costs and benefits? What is the range of uncertainty? Are the prices, incentives and regulations appropriate and likely to be effective?

At the annual meeting of the Minnesota Economic Association last month, three economists discussed the major environmental issues we face, and what economists can do to help solve them:

  • Sarah West is G. Theodore Mitau Professor of Economics and chair of the economics department at Macalester College.

  • Stephen Polasky is Regents Professor and the Fesler-Lampert Professor of Ecological/Environmental Economics at the University of Minnesota.

  • The moderator is Louis Johnston, professor of economics at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict.

Their panel discussion was held at the 2019 annual conference of the Minnesota Economic Association, held at Hamline University on Oct. 25.