Two research teams at the Vienna University of Economics and Business are teaming up to fight the Climate Crisis. Our latest research shows decisively: the cheapest way of reducing our carbon footprint by far is to put a fair price on CO2 emissions. Over 19,000 Europeans have already signed the petition. Learn more and add your signature!
COVID-19 is a violent reminder of the fragility of the current moment. For epidemiologists, it came as no surprise – already in 2007 scientists were predicting a coronavirus emerging from our contact with bats, as we encroach more and more on their natural habitats. It was the speed of the pandemic that was new. As the first airline companies grounded by the travel shutdown have begun asking governments to bail them out, let's also remind ourselves of the fact that last year there were nearly 69 million commercial flights – a massive 10% year-on-year increase. And because 80% of the global population has never actually experienced air travel, an uncomfortable amount of responsibility falls on those of us living in the rich countries. Together with Greta Thunberg, we know that the task in front of us is simple: carbon emissions have to be reduced fast, and no amount of talk will substitute for this simple fact. And just like we could have saved many lives had we taken the prospects of a global pandemic more seriously and prepared at least an EU-wide emergency plan, we now need to listen to the climate scientists and act together.
While the world enters the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression (the IMF estimates a 3% decrease in global GDP – the Depression only cut 0.1%), university employees and students have transitioned to online teaching without much effort, and working from home took little away from our research endeavors. This is a great privilege. STaR Intellectual Community fellows Jan Valendin and Filipe Sengo Furtado, from the WU Vienna’s Marketing Institute, are seeking to use this privileged position to organize a grassroots effort centered around universities in the EU, calling on the European Commission to put a fair price on CO2 emissions.
Other WU colleagues from the Institute for Quantitative Economics have recently calculated that a carbon price is by far the cheapest way of reducing European CO2 emissions, particularly because we can substitute the dirtiest 10% of our energy production – which, shockingly, still comes from burning coal as if we were in the 1920s – with existing cleaner alternatives like natural gas plants, many of which are kept idle because burning coal is still so cheap. In the long term, we must move beyond the fossil fuels altogether, but with this simple step we could reduce the CO2 emissions from the crucial energy sector by up to 27% *instantly*, and send a strong signal about our future direction, away from dirty energy.
Jan and Filipe created a website called "CO2 must go" to explain the science behind their campaign, which calls on all European universities to support the joint effort. There are some 19 million tertiary students around Europe. Together, we can put pressure on our political leaders, support evidence-based economics, free of propaganda and politics, and finally end our dirty affair with coal.