Renowned economist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prof. Gary Yohe is marking a personal and professional milestone of 7 books published across his distinguished and impactful career.
Yohe was a senior member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for their foundational work in formulating and communicating measures to counteract man-made climate change. He has worked with the IPCC since the mid-1990s, and has made significant authorial contributions to the IPCC's third and fourth assessment reports.
His two latest works, both published in late March of 2023, are Defending against Climate Risk – Lessons and Stories From a Foot Soldier in the Climate Wars and Responding to the Climate Threat: Essays on Humanity's Greatest Challenge. The former is partly a memoir of his career as a senior climate change and it also contains technical lessons on how to respond to climate change. According to Yohe, he has been drawn into the opinion wars over climate change that span the political spectrum. He also experienced ridicule and death threats from the opposition, hence the phrase “foot soldier” in the subtitle.
Meanwhile, Responding to the Climate Threat is an annotated collection of essays that Yohe co-authored with fellow climate scholars Henry Jacoby, Richard Richels, and Benjamin Santer. They explain how and why the fight against climate change is the ultimate challenge for human society and lay out in plain language the current scientific consensus on the crisis. The essays were written in a particular social context, spanning the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 US Presidential Election, up until mid-2022.
In 2006, Yohe was one of the editors of Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, a book that presented the findings of the conference of the same name hosted by the UK Government in the previous year, with a foreword written by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
According to Yohe, the first book he had authored was a study guide to Economics by Paul Samuelson and William Nordhaus,then one of the most popular introductory economic textbooks in the world. Nordhaus was Yohe's dissertation adviser, and he personally asked Yohe to write the study guide.
Yohe later co-authored the 10th and 11th editions of Microeconomics with Edwin Mansfield. This is another classic textbook in the field of economics, drawing on various real-world applications and some mathematics to present foundational microeconomics theories to readers.
Yohe says one of the most memorable moments in his climate change work was drafting the synthesis report of the IPCC's fourth assessment in 2004.
“Steve Schneider, Bill Hare and I spent a week at an authors’ meeting crafting 30 words that would tell the world that climate change really isn't a cost-benefit analysis problem, but rather an iterative risk management problem. By iterative, they meant that there needs to mid course corrections in a risk management approach to climate change as the indicate that there are various tools that people use to make decisions above and beyond costs and benefits when uncertainty comes into play.”
They took the synthesis report to the IPCC plenary, where it had to be approved word-for-word by the representatives of the 189 countries present. Recognizing the importance of the report, the IPCC's chair put it on the agenda for the first day.
“We spent the rest of the week going around and talking to the countries, and they would indicate their reluctance or support, as well as suggest changes. We spent the week talking to delegations and delegates to explain everything, listen, and make some edits. On the fifth day of the conference, it was time to put it up for a consensus determination. It turned out that after all of those changes, the words we ended up with were exactly the same as what we had drafted.”
Looking back at his long career, Yohe says he is quite happy with what he has accomplished and contributed to, and that he will continue down this path.
“It's been very satisfying, and I've had a privileged life by being in the right place at the right time. For most of my career, I've been writing academic literature framed around how we think about the problem of climate change and how we evaluate the different abilities of countries around the world to adapt. Overall, I feel very good about myself and how I spent my time; we all know that we saved some lives. Whenever we get the word out about climate change to as many people as possible, it becomes a source of satisfaction and renews my inspiration to continue my work.”
Contact Person: Prof. Gary Yohe
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