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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Ruffin-Gregory Award for the Worst Treatment of Climate Change in an Economics Textbook

I did not know until yesterday that there is a prize that bears my name. The Ruffin-Gregory Award was established by a protector of the faith in global warming for the purpose of “hounding out of print” the economics text that has the worst treatment of climate change. That the award is named after us, I guess, means that our Principles of Economics is the worst of all time!

The Cancun conference has again brought climate issues to the forefront, and an e mail from a colleague, whose economics text was recently awarded an F in climate change (and a threatened boycott of the publisher’s books), brought the existence of the Ruffin-Gregory Prize to my attention.

I had long forgotten that, in 2000, Roy Ruffin and I received complaints about our treatment of global warming in our seventh edition of Principles of Economics. Our publisher (Addison Wesley) was threatened with a boycott if it did not withdraw our text. Our sin was to suggest that the scientific method should be applied to three questions: (1) is global warming occurring, (2) is global warming caused by human consumption of fossil fuels, and (3) is global warming bad for our future. At the time we were writing (1999), we knew that there was no “normal earth temperature” in terms of geological time and we also that temperatures in the medieval warming period were higher than contemporary standards. Moreover, we had a healthy skepticism of computer modeling of such things from our first-edition discussion of the fatal flaws of the Club of Rome-MIT model, which famously predicted we would long be out of natural resources by today. These seemed like legitimate grounds to call for the application of the scientific method to our three questions on climate change. Whatever answers the scientific method produced would be fully acceptable to us. We did not and do not have any stake in the outcome. Let the chips fall where they may.

Over the past decade, much has happened: Nobel prizes for Al Gore and the IPCC, the “100% consensus” on global warming and its causes and consequences, and ClimateGate. My own personal view is that we still do not have solid answers to the key question of the human contribution to climate change. It is heartening to know that the Ruffin-Gregory Award is still alive and well (and that we now know it exists). It is also informative that economics textbooks are still being threatened by the climate police with boycotts for departing from climate orthodoxy. The one disheartening note is that some economic textbook authors seem to be deliberately aiming for an A grade.


  1. When your critics employ intimidation and base threats, you know they do not have a leg to stand on. I live in Canada in the mid west. We have not seen a typical summer in 3 years. Much colder than average is all we get. But this is supposed to be one of the hottest years on record. Try and tell that to the Europeans and the Canadians.