Gary Yohe’s Legacy

Gary W. Yohe is the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies at Wesleyan University, where he has been on the faculty for more than 40 years. He received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD in Economics from Yale University in 1975. He will retire from Wesleyan in May.  You can learn more about his career by clicking here.

Welcome remarks to attendees at the retirement event for Gary Yohe, hosted by the Economics Department on April 7, 2019, by Richard S. Grossman, Economics Department chair.  You can see the full program here.

On behalf of the Economics Department, I am happy to welcome you all to our celebration of Gary W. Yohe, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, on the occasion of his retirement.

During the course of the day, you will hear from a number of Gary’s students and colleagues, who will speak to you about Gary as a teacher and colleague. I’d like to provide a bit of background about Gary and his place in the economics profession. To put it succinctly and with a minimum of technical jargon, Gary Yohe is a big honking deal.  Gary arrived at Wesleyan almost 42 years ago, and in the ensuing period has published more than 170 papers in top journals in economics and science.

Gary’s scholarly career was launched with his Ph.D. dissertation in microeconomics, completed at Yale in 1975, entitled A Comparison of Price Controls and Quantity Controls Under Uncertainty. That dissertation led to several articles in top economics journals, including the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Review of Economic Studies, and the International Economic Review. In 1979, Gary’s dissertation was published by Garland Press in a series of 24 Outstanding Dissertations in Economics.

Early in his career, Gary turned his considerable talents to climate change and environmental economics, publishing numerous sole and joint authored papers in high quality field journals such as Resources and Energy, Policy Sciences, and Global Environmental Change. In addition, Gary continued to publish outside the climate/environmental area in journals such as the Journal of Economic Literature and the Journal of Comparative Economics. It is clear to us that had Gary taken a more traditional path, he would have continued publishing in top-level general and field journals within economics.

Gay’s scholarly career took an interesting turn in the late 1980s, when he began to undertake more interdisciplinary work in which he developed intertemporal decision-making models with uncertainty to evaluate the effectiveness of various climate policies. It is an understatement to say that this transition was successful. From early on, he demonstrated his considerable ability to be productive in the area that was relatively new to him and was able to publish multiple papers from 1991-1993, most of which are sole-authored. Soon after these papers were published, he joined forces with top-notch climate scientists to produce path-breaking work that spanned economics, science, and policy-making. Working with numerous high-profile co-authors in the science of climate change, Gary established his scholarly reputation globally and with a far broader audience.

Gary’s insight into the important issues surrounding climate change made him highly sought-after—both as a co-author and policy expert. Many of Gary’s interdisciplinary papers have been extensively cited. In particular, his paper, “A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems,” which was published in Nature in 2003, has been cited 7633 times in a wide range of scholarly journals. His scholarly impact extends far beyond the field of economics and has been widely recognized. Most notably, he is a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as a senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change whose reports prominently incorporate Gary’s life-long scholarly work on climate policy.

Gary brings his considerable knowledge into the classroom and partners with his students in cutting-edge research in environmental economics. And, in fact, when I asked Gary what sort of retirement event he would like, he very quickly responded that he wanted one that would showcase his students. And this is what we have tried to do.

Gary has co-authored five papers with six students over the years one of whom, Mark Jacobsen, is now an Associate Professor of Economics at UC San Diego and a leading scholar in the field. And he will be joining us here. And you will be hearing from seven more students of differing vintages. One who graduated more than 30 years ago….and one who will graduate next month.
His colleagues in the Economics Department, the College of the Environment—an institution he helped to found–and the Wesleyan university community are fortunate to have had such a wonderful colleague in our midst. We fully expect him to continue his important scholarly and policy work…and hope that, when time allows, he will come back to visit us.