Over 100 leading economists have written a letter calling for an end to the carbon-intensive economy on which the world has relied so heavily in the decades leading up to the coronavirus pandemic.

The authors of the letter to The Guardian include the Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, and Kate Raworth of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, known for her work on sustainable economies.

They call on governments and institutions of financial power around the world to actively phase out the fossil fuel industry, arguing that “Bailouts and subsidies to big oil, gas and coal companies only further delay the essential energy transition, distorting markets while locking us into a future we cannot afford.”

“As we seek to rebuild our world, we can and must end the carbon economy,” they say, warning against a return to a carbon-based economy which is, “all the more dangerous, given the fundamental instability of an economy rooted in injustice.”

“Sources of large-scale human suffering, such as crop failures, water shortages, rising tides, wildfires, severe weather, forced migration and pandemics, go hand-in-hand with a warming world.”

Around the world, the frequency and intensity of natural disasters is increasing due to Earth’s rapidly changing climate. Recent years have seen unprecedented extreme weather events, from Hurricanes Irma and Maria which devastated the Caribbean in 2017, or the wildfires witnessed in Australia at the start of 2020 (in which an estimated 3 billion animals were killed or displaced), to the monsoon floods which are currently submerging one-quarter of Bangladesh.

The authors also highlight inequalities exposed by the climate crisis, noting that black Americans suffer from some of the highest rates of exposure to polluted air; “The carbon economy amplifies and begets racial, social and economic inequities, creating a system that is fundamentally incompatible with a stable future.”

They warn: “If we fail to act now, the present moment may merely be a preview of what is to come, as we are forced into ever-more-painful situations and tradeoffs.”

Campaigners have called for a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, which they say has provided the world the opportunity to reset and transform current economic practices and to move forward with a renewed emphasis on tackling the climate and ecological crises.

The letter calls for “a coordinated phaseout of exploration for an extraction of carbon resources,” which will allow governments to “redeploy funds towards green technology, infrastructure, social programs and good jobs, spurring an economic transition that benefits people and the planet.”

Private financial institutions are also urged to take immediate action. The letter says that “these institutions should divest from fossil fuel companies and end financing of their continued operations while reinvesting those resources in a just and stable future.”

The coronavirus pandemic is merely a taste of what is to come unless we radically alter our societies, they say, warning that, “If we attempt an economic rebuilding whose guiding principle is a return to “business as usual” we will simply substitute one crisis for another.”

The letter concludes: “As the undersigned experts in economics, we call on our policymakers to recognize the role that meaningful climate action has to play in rebuilding our world – to recognize that a healthy economy and society require a healthy planet.”

The Oxford Blue contacted Raworth for comment.

The full letter and list of signatories can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/04/economists-letter-carbon-economy-climate-change-rebuild

Max Spokes

Max (he/him) was formerly Environment News Editor and Climate Columnist at The Blue. He is in his final year studying History and Politics at Balliol.