Co-founder and Executive Director
Laurie T. Johnson
Dr. Laurie Johnson is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Climate Cost Project. She focuses on the project’s research and data collection goals, as well as fundraising and board relations.
Prior to co-founding the Climate Cost Project, Laurie served as the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) chief economist for the climate and clean air program for seven years, and before that as a professor of economics at the University of Denver for eight years. During her academic career, Laurie taught environmental economics, experimental economics, cost benefit analysis, statistics, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and poverty. Her research focused on financial and ethical drivers of public support for environmental regulations. She then worked at the NRDC to improve estimates of climate change costs and identify best practices in government modeling of the regulatory costs and benefits of mitigation policies.
Laurie has developed original interdisciplinary surveys, as well as economic experiments and games, that have been published in top journals, including the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, and Ecological Economics. She received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Washington, Seattle. She is an instructor in environmental economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is an affiliated scholar with the New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity.
Laurie’s interest in founding the Climate Cost Project followed directly from her academic and policy careers. She found that climate science facts, high-level policy analyses supporting efficient clean energy policies, and top-down modeling of climate change costs could not speak to people in a relatable way. She also became keenly aware of the lack of ground-level data on the economic costs of climate change, and how this lack of data distorted public and academic understanding of actual costs to the American public. Laurie believes that it is critical to measure costs people are already personally experiencing, many of which are large and undocumented, to make an effective case for mitigation.