Location: Seattle, WA

Several popular economics textbooks contain incorrect information about climate change science and policy, ranging from misleading to flat-out wrong.

That’s according to a new review of 16 of the most popular college economics textbooks, written by Dr. Yoram Bauman, environmental economist at the University of Washington and fellow at the sustainability think tank, Sightline Institute.

The recent financial crises have publishers scrambling to update textbooks to incorporate new lessons. But Bauman’s review demonstrates that when it comes to climate science and economics, accuracy and timeliness take a back seat.

“Although students are getting the latest on the global financial situation, the information on climate change in many of these books is often obsolete,” said Bauman. “We need to prepare future economists to understand how to prevent a future financial meltdown, but we’re also obligated to help them understand the consequences of, and solutions to, climate change.”

Five of the reviewed books, all recently published, fall into the “Not Recommended” category. One is Economics, 18th ed. by Campbell McConnell, Stanley Brue, and Sean Flynn, a volume that commands about 20 percent of the college economics textbook market. Bauman gives it a C- for multiple errors, and for basing much of its material on science that is almost 15 years out of date.

The only F given by Bauman goes to Economics: Private and Public Choice, 13th ed., by James Gwartney, Richard Stroup, Russell Sobel, and David Macpherson, for including such statements as “the current warming trend may well be unrelated to the emissions of carbon dioxide”–a position that even the Cato Institute rejects. The authors make allusions to a climate change “conspiracy,” and imply that economists are lined up in opposition to climate action, which they are not.

“The authors did not just omit the latest in climate research; they blatantly ignored the consensus of the climate science community,” said Bauman. “Schools and students shouldn’t be using this book.”

A few textbooks with notable authors appear the list. The book co-authored by Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman received an A, as did the text by conservative Harvard economist N. Gregory Mankiw. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s textbook, co-authored with Robert Frank, received a C.

Download the full review here.

About Sightline:

Sightline Institute is an independent, nonprofit research and communications center—a think tank—founded in Seattle, Washington in 1993.

About Yoram Bauman:

Yoram Bauman, Ph.D., is a Sightline Institute Fellow and economist at the University of Washington’s Program on the Environment. Besides lecturing, he spends much of his time bringing economic concepts to new audiences as the “the world’s first and only stand-up economist,” and as author of The Cartoon Introduction to Economics, co-authored and illustrated by Grady Klein.

December 1, 2010