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IGPA Economist Don Fullerton Working on Nobel-Recognized UN Project

Sept. 13, 2011 -- IGPA economist Don Fullerton began work this summer with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the IPCC “reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change,” according to their website.

Fullerton will join more than 800 authors from across the globe to write the Fifth Assessment Report. The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report was recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its “efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." The IPCC shared the honor with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who was recognized for his documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

The Fifth Assessment Report will include information about climate science (CO2 levels, sea level changes, evolution of weather, etc); adaptation, or how we will learn to live with climate change; and mitigation, or how to reduce or slow climate change.

Fullerton was recruited to be part of the IPCC team of volunteer authors for the mitigation section of the report. Fullerton will contribute his expertise on measurement of distributional effects of policy choices. In July, Fullerton joined a group of authors that represents countries from Mexico to Norway to Bangladesh to Chile.

“We have to write something that is going to be acceptable to everyone. We have to be as objective as possible by laying out the arguments on both sides in order to give an assessment of the pros and cons of different policy choices,” Fullerton said.

Fullerton’s research takes a quantitative approach to understanding how effects of different policy decisions are distributed across segments of the population. For climate change policy, this research provides different ways to talk about the burden—or equity—of various choices on populations such low- and high-income families, older and younger citizens, or geographic regions.

“It is essential to have common measurement tools,” Fullerton said. Developing a scientific foundation for all nations involved in climate change policy provides common ground for negotiation. “We are writing a mutually acceptable background for the next meeting of world leaders for negotiation of a climate accord.”

Fullerton will travel to New Zealand in March to continue work on this important international contribution to climate science. To learn more about Fullerton’s research, view his IGPA biography here, or his personal website here.