Geoffrey M. Heal

Columbia University

Election Year: 2016
Primary Section: 64, Human Environmental Sciences
Secondary Section: 54, Economic Sciences
Membership Type: Member


Geoffrey Heal is an economist known for work on economic theory and environmental and resource economics. Born in 1944 in Bangor, Wales, he is now a U.S. citizen. He holds bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees from Cambridge, where he completed his PhD in 1968. He received an honorary doctorate from Université de Paris Dauphine. Since 1983 he has been a professor at Columbia Business School. He held prior positions at Cambridge, Sussex and Essex universities.

Heal was managing editor of the Review of Economic Studies 1972-76, elected a Fellow of the Econometric Society in 1977, became president of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AERE) in 1982 and in 2003 received their Prize for a Publication of Enduring Quality. He was elected a Life Fellow of the AERE in 2006 and in 2014 received the prize for the best paper of 2013 from the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, 2014. Heal chaired the National Academy Committee on the Valuation of Ecosystem Services from 2002-4, was a Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group II, Chapter 17 on “The Economics of Adaptation.” He is a director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and a founder and chair of the board of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations.

Research Interests

Heal was one of the founders of the modern field of environmental and resource economics. His 1970s work with Dasgupta showed how cutting edge microeconomics could be adapted and extended to provide a systematic framework for thinking about the economics of environmental issues, and provided many of the underpinnings of the economics of sustainability. In the 1990s he developed this further and began recognizing the role played by natural systems in human wellbeing and incorporating natural systems into economic models as natural capital. His 2000 book and his 2004 report for the National Academy developed further a framework for incorporating ecosystems into an economic analysis of the environment. Subsequent work has focused on sustainability, both developing a conceptual framework for measuring sustainability and applying this. Heal has also played a major role in developing the economics of climate change, first writing on this in 1984: with Millner and Dietz he has developed a framework for incorporating uncertainty into this analysis, recognizing that uncertainty about outcomes under climate change is generally qualitative rather than quantitative. His work on climate change has focused mainly on the modeling of uncertainty and the selection of a discount rate. In addition to his environmental work, Heal has written on economic theory, specifically growth theory, general equilibrium theory and social choice theory.

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