Frank Ackerman

Director, Climate Economics Group (former)


Somerville, MA
frank.ackerman@sei-us.org

Frank Ackerman is an economist specializing in climate change. A prominent critic of conventional economic approaches to climate policy and the abuses of cost-benefit analysis, he has written extensively for academic, policy and general audiences and has directed studies for clients ranging from Greenpeace to the European Parliament and U.S. federal and state agencies.

Ackerman's most recent book, Can We Afford the Future? Economics for a Warming World (Zed Books, 2009), reframes the economics of climate change in terms of insuring the planet against worst-case scenarios, addressing the needs of future generations, and accepting the challenge of global equity raised by the climate crisis. His other recent projects include The Economics of 350: The Benefits and Costs of Climate Stabilization (E3 Network, 2009, with Elizabeth A. Stanton et al.), and Poisoned for Pennies: The Economics of Toxics and Precaution (Island Press, 2008).

Ackerman is a founder and steering committee member of Economics for Equity and Environment (the E3 Network) and a member scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform in Washington, D.C. He is also a senior research fellow at the Global Development and Environment Institute of Tufts University, where he led the Research and Policy Program until 2007.

Ackerman earned his Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University in 1975 and has taught economics at Tufts University and the University of Massachusetts.


Recent Publications by Frank Ackerman

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Climate policy and development: an economic analysis

E3 Network working paper

Author(s): Ackerman, F. ; Stanton, E.A. ; Bueno, R.
Year: 2012

Research Area(s): Climate Economics

Description: This article describes the use of the Climate and Regional Economics of Development (CRED) model to explore the interconnections between climate and development policy. CRED scenarios, based on high and low projections of climate damages, and high and low discount rates, are used to analyze the effects of varying levels of assistance to the poorest regions of the world. The authors find that climate and development choices are nearly independent of each other if the climate threat is seen as either very mild or very serious. The optimal climate policy is to do very little in the former case, and a lot in the latter case, regardless of development. In the latter case, however, assistance may be required for the poorest regions to respond to serious climate threats in the globally "optimal" manner. Under intermediate assumptions about the severity of climate risks, development policy plays a greater role. In one scenario, which falls within the range of current debate, a high level of development assistance makes the difference between success and failure in long-term stabilization of the global climate.
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CRED v.1.4 Technical Report

SEI Technical Report

Author(s): Ackerman, F. ; Stanton, E.A. ; Bueno, R.
Year: 2012

Research Area(s): Climate Economics

Description: Climate and Regional Economics of Development (CRED) is an integrated assessment model with a central focus on the global distribution of climate damages and climate policy costs. It is designed to estimate the best pace of investment in emissions mitigation and the best distribution of the necessary investment costs among regions of the world, aiming to inform global climate negotiations and help break the stalemate between developed and developing countries. Version 1.4 of the CRED model was completed in August 2012. This technical report describes the CRED v.1.4 methodology in detail.
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Reason, Empathy, and Fair Play: the Climate Policy Gap

SEI Discussion Brief

Author(s): Stanton, E.A. ; Ackerman, F. ; Bueno, R.
Year: 2012

Research Area(s): Climate Economics

Description: To achieve the greatest possible human welfare, SEI's Climate and Regional Economics of Development (CRED) model calls for a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, beginning in the next decade and keeping cumulative twenty-first century carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions below 2,000 Gt (gigatonnes, or thousand million tons). This brief addresses why CRED recommends such stringent reductions when some other climate-economics models say that very slow emission reductions are the best policy.
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Climate Protection and Development

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs book

Author(s): Ackerman, F.
Year: 2012

Research Area(s): Climate Economics

Description: This book, which updates and synthesizes UN/DESA's World Economic and Social Survey 2009: Promoting Development, Saving the Planet, spells out, in more detail than usual, what can and should be done to avert the real risks of disaster. It summons the world to an endeavour worthy of the resources and ingenuity of the twenty-first century – towards bold initiatives with big costs, and much bigger benefits. It explores the interconnected issues of climate and development, laying the groundwork for such a new deal. It presents a challenging agenda, and highlights the needs and perspectives of developing countries which may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable to readers in high-income countries. The unfortunate truth is that any large country, or group of mid-sized countries, can veto any global climate solution by refusing to participate, so a solution will only work if it works for everyone.
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Climate damages in the FUND model: A disaggregated analysis

Ecological Economics, in press; available online April 11, 2012

Author(s): Ackerman, F. ; Munitz, C.
Year: 2012

Research Area(s): Climate Economics

Description: This article examines the treatment of climate damages in the FUND model. By inserting software switches to turn individual features on and off, the authors obtain FUND's estimates for 15 categories of damages, and for components of the agricultural category. FUND, as used by the U.S. government to estimate the social cost of carbon, projects a net benefit of climate change in agriculture, offset by a slightly larger estimate of all other damages. Use of estimates from such models is arguably inappropriate for setting public policy. But as long as such models are being used in the policy-making process, an update to reflect newer research and correct modeling errors is needed before FUND's damage estimates can be relied on.
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