Focus areas: Economic theory, resource and environmental economics

Geoffrey Heal, Donald C. Waite III Professor of Social Enterprise and Professor of International and Public Affairs, is noted for contributions to economic theory and resource and environmental economics. He holds bachelors (first class), masters and doctoral degrees from Cambridge University, where he studied at Churchill College and taught at Christ’s College. He has also taught at Sussex, Essex, Yale, Stanford, École Polytechnique, Stockholm and Princeton. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Universite´ de Paris Dauphine.

Author of eighteen books and about two hundred articles, Professor Heal is a Fellow of the Econometric Society, past Managing Editor of the Review of Economic Studies, Past President of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, recipient of its prize for publications of enduring quality and a Life Fellow, recipient of the 2013 Best Publication Prize of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, a Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists and a founder and Director and chairman of the Board of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, developers of the REDD policy for reducing deforestation by awarding carbon credits for forest conservation. Recent books include Nature and the Marketplace, Valuing the Future, When Principles Pay and Whole Earth Economics (forthcoming).

Professor Heal chaired a committee of the National Academy of Sciences on valuing ecosystem services, was a Commissioner of the Pew Oceans Commission, was a coordinating lead author of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, was a member of President Sarkozy’s Commission on the Meaurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, was a member of the advisory board for the World Bank’s 2010 World Development Report and the United Nations Environment Program’s 2011 Human Development Report, and acts as an advisor to the World Bank on its Green Growth project. He is also a Director of Public Business, a foundation that promotes in-depth public interest journalism and a member of the Advisory Board of Green Seal.

He has been a principal in two start-up companies, a consulting firm and a software and telecommunications company, and until recently was a member of the Investment Committee of a green private equity group. He teaches MBA courses on “Current Developments in Energy Markets,” “Business and Society: Doing Well by Doing Good?” and “The Business of Sustainability,” teaches a doctoral course on advanced microeconomic theory, and advises doctoral students interested in sustainability.

Research & Publications

September 2017|Science|Geoffrey Heal, and others
December 2016|Columbia University Press |Geoffrey Heal
August 2016|Review of Environmental Economics and Policy|Geoffrey Heal, Jisung Park
October 2010|The Irrational Economist: Making Decisions in a Dangerous World|Geoffrey Heal
June 2010|Is Economic Growth Sustainable?|Geoffrey Heal

How can we determine if current growth patterns are sustainable, and what changes to we need to make to make them more so? This volume addresses these issues in a rigorous yet accessible fashion, presenting the current research of some of the world’s leading scholars.

October 2009|Review of Environmental Economics and Policy|Geoffrey Heal

What have we learned from the outpouring of literature as a result of the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change? A lot. We have explored the models and the possible parameter values much more thoroughly. The Stern Review has catalyzed a fundamental rethinking of the economic case for action on climate change. We are now in a position to identify conditions that are sufficient to make a case for strong action on climate change, but more work is needed before we can have a fully satisfactory account of the relevant economics. In particular, we need to better understand how climate change affects natural capital—the natural environment and the ecosystems comprising it—and how this in turn affects human welfare.

October 2008|Working Paper of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center|Geoffrey Heal, Howard Kunreuther

We review the extent to which the Federal Government faces liabilities arising from its management of environmental risks, and argue that the degradation of natural capital can lead to social risks which ultimately will end up to some degree as the responsibility of the Federal Government. We then look in detail at the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act and try to assess the nature of the liability assumed by the Federal Government under this Act. This is clearly very large indeed, and we argue that this risk is not well-managed by current institutions and policies and suggest ways of improving the management of nuclear risks.

April 2008|Columbia University Press|Geoffrey Heal

It is becoming increasingly common for corporations to engage voluntarily in activities that promote environmental or social goals. These activities generally have some cost and often are not in any way legally required. Why do corporations spend resources in these ways? Possible explanations include improving brand image, bundling public goods with private and capturing some of consumers’ willingness to pay for these, improving relations with regulators, or indulging management’s preferences for charitable activities. In this paper I review these possible explanations and the empirical literature that tries to discriminate between them.

November 2000|Columbia University Press|Geoffrey Heal

With issues like global warming and the loss of biodiversity becoming increasingly important to policymakers and scientists worldwide, the issue of sustainability cannot be ignored as we move toward the twenty-first century.

Not surprisingly, the sustainable management of the biosphere has in recent years been the subject of much attention among ecologists, environmental engineers, and other members of the scientific community. Yet although these issues are clearly rooted in economic behavior and organization, the question of sustainability is not one that has been addressed directly by economists. Now, with Valuing the Future, economist Geoffrey Heal presents a coherent framework for understanding the earth's future from an economic perspective.

Heal's model begins with a reconciliation of the economist's and environmentalist's time horizon: in economics, discussions of "the long run" generally refer to a much shorter timeline than do those of the earth sciences. The book shows the benefits of viewing the environment as an economic asset that should be understood as a part of a nation's income and explains how this approach can lead to more conservative patterns of resource use.

Stepping beyond merely theoretical generalities, Valuing the Future offers a dynamic new blueprint for comprehending sustainability. Chapters provide complete mathematical templates for the valuation of a depletable stock and of renewable resources, the proper calculation of national income, and the conduct of cost-benefit analysis. It will be of great value to economic theorists, environmental economists and policymakers, providing a powerful new model for scientists concerned with environmental sustainability.

November 2000|Island Press|Geoffrey Heal

In recent years, scientists have begun to focus on the idea that healthy, functioning ecosystems provide essential services to human populations, ranging from water purification to food and medicine to climate regulation. Lacking a healthy environment, these services would have to be provided through mechanical means, at a tremendous economic and social cost. "Nature and the Marketplace" examines the controversial proposition that markets should be designed to capture the value of those services. Written by an economist with a background in business, it evaluates the real prospects for several of nature's marketable services to "turn profits" at levels that exceed the profits expected from alternative, ecologically destructive, business activities.

The author describes the infrastructure that natural systems provide, how we depend on it, and how we are affecting it; explains the market mechanism and how it can lead to more efficient resource use; looks at key economic activities - such as ecotourism, bioprospecting and carbon sequestration - where market forces can provide incentives for conservation; examines policy options other than the market, such as pollution credits and mitigation banking; and considers the issue of sustainability and equity between generations. "Nature and the Marketplace" presents an accessible introduction to the concept of ecosystem services to the economics of the environment. It offers a clear assessment of how market approaches can be used to protect the environment, and illustrates that with a number of cases in which the value of ecosystems has actually been captured by markets. The book offers a straightforward business economic analysis of conservation issues, eschewing romantic notions about ecosystem preservation in favour of real-world economic solutions. It should be an eye-opening work for professionals, students and scholars in conservation biology, ecology, environmental economics, environmental policy and related fields.