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Climate Change and Economics 101: Teaching the Greatest Market Failure

Department of Sociology, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA 90041, USA
Independent Scholar, The Stand-up Economist, Salt Lake City, UT 84105, USA
UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA
Department of Economics, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA 90041, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(5), 1340;
Received: 31 January 2019 / Revised: 15 February 2019 / Accepted: 27 February 2019 / Published: 4 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Education and Approaches)
PDF [237 KB, uploaded 6 March 2019]


In this paper, we explore how principles of economics courses prepare undergraduate students to think about climate change. We collected a comprehensive list of twenty-seven introductory economics textbooks in the United States and analyzed their coverage of climate change. Our finding shows that not all texts touch upon climate science, and a small subset deviates from the scientific consensus on the human causes of climate change. All texts conceptualize climate change as a problem of carbon emission’s negative externalities and the preferred market-based solutions, such as emission trading and Pigouvian tax. Besides externality, some authors include various useful points of engagement through GDP (Gross domestic product) accounting, economic growth, collective action problems, cost–benefit analysis, and global inequality. In the end, we provide suggestions for economics educators to innovate the current introductory curriculum to better cope with the climate crisis. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; externality; economic textbooks; economics education climate change; externality; economic textbooks; economics education
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Liu, J. .-E.; Bauman, Y.; Chuang, Y. Climate Change and Economics 101: Teaching the Greatest Market Failure. Sustainability 2019, 11, 1340.

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