The future of some technologies depends crucially on governmental policies, not just conventional market forces. For example, the evolution of climate-change technologies, in which Nordhaus specializes, will depend on the future pricing policies of carbon emissions. “Some technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, won’t even get off the ground with a zero carbon price,” he says.
Estimating the potential costs of climate-change mitigation technologies is one of the main applications the researchers envisage for their findings. The results seem to imply that stimulating growth through public policies might accelerate the fall, as Wright’s law implies. “We have more control over these things than we might think,” says Farmer.