A few years ago, in a luncheon buffet line at the annual meeting of the International Society for New Institutional Economics in Toronto, Lee Benham, an Economics professor at the Washington University in St. Louis, turned to me and said that the only policy needed for greenhouse gas mitigation was to establish a prize for technological innovations that would ameliorate climate change.
Now, Jonathan Adler of the Case Western Research University School of Law, has published a working paper (here) called "Eyes on a Climate Prize: Rewarding Energy Innovation to Achieve Climate Stabilization." Adler's paper puts a lot more meat on the bones of Benham's simple assertion, providing a historical context for assessing the potential utility of prizes (essentially, cash awards) in climate policy. Also, in contrast to Benham, Adler expressly recognizes that prizes cannot be a panacea for climate policy; his more nuanced argument is that they have been under-utilized in the climate-policy max. I might nit-pick that nearly all policies have been under-utilized so far in climate policy, such as it is. But Adler's point that prizes could make a significant difference is well taken.