Our planet has seen major shifts in climate over time, but humans have not. This disassociation is why climate change has become the most serious long-term economic problem for policymakers, says J. Isaac (Zack) Miller, professor and associate chair of the Department of Economics. And, while there is a large amount of evidence for the existence of climate change, the data are often complex and difficult to apply, therefore limiting their use for economic policymaking. Miller is helping to bridge that gap. His research efforts provide a better understanding of the interaction between climate and the economy.
As an econometrician, Miller specializes in statistics and methodological tools to quantify the results of economic models. By utilizing newly developed and well-known tools to analyze research, Miller presents data and models that may be unfamiliar to economists in ways that are user-friendly, yet detailed enough to capture the most important findings, such as the so-called hiatus in global warming from about 1998–2013, or the phenomenon known as polar amplification in which the polar ice sheets warm faster than the global average. In 2020, Miller discovered a large natural cycle in temperature fluctuations expected to become negative for the first time in decades sometime in the next few years. His findings were published in the international scientific journal Earth System Dynamics. Without access to clear and accessible analysis provided by Miller and other researchers, global policy makers could mistakenly attribute a slowdown in global warming to successful mitigation policy rather than to natural causes, leading to overconfidence in policies aimed at combating climate change to preserve the quality of life.
Miller hopes his research will contribute to a better understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change. He will continue to identity and close gaps in our understanding of the dynamics of climate change and its interactions with the economic system.
J. Isaac (Zack) Miller