Misum meets Yannis Dafermos

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We invited Yannis Dafermos from University of the West of England and the New Economics Foundation to our seminar series ”Misum meets”. He spoke on the topic ”Building a Model to integrate the Macro-Economy, the Financial System and the Ecosystem”.

Yannis Dafermos of the New Economics Foundation spoke this morning about the model that he and his colleagues are building , which integrates the macro-economy, the financial system and the ecosystem. The model is a synthesis of ecological economics and post-Keynesian stock-flow consistent modelling, which both focus on essential aspects of the economy, the ecosystem and the financial system, respectively, but have yet to be combined into a coherent approach. Working in the tradition of Georgescu-Roegen (ecological economics) and Wynne Godley (stock-flow consistent modelling), Mr. Dafermos’s approach is firmly outside of the mainstream. In the presentation he critiqued the neoclassical “Integrated Assessment Modelling” (IAM) used in standard climate models, arguing that they are based upon the assumption that output is determined by the supply-side only (although not the supply side that is the ecosystem), and not demand as in Keynesian economics, and that they use a production function that does not take energy or physical matter into account. These flaws lead to misguided projections, he argued, and do not, for example, take the economic effects of environmental degradation into account. By focusing on prices only, IAM also leads to the necessary but in my view dangerously insufficient policy conclusion that there should be a price on carbon, and not much else.  Other policies, such as fiscal, financial, regulatory and industrial policies are left out, a flaw that Mr. Dafermos’s modelling aims to correct.

Mr. Dafermos guided us through the interlocking parts of his model, an inevitably complex and intellectually challenging but therefore also rewarding exercise. For someone who is not trained in mathematics or economics, it is obviously quite difficult to assess the viability of the model, but I found the focus on both ecological and financial flows, arranged in balance sheets where all inputs and outputs and all assets and liabilities equal zero, was intuitively pleasing. Unfortunately, we did not manage to convince anyone representing mainstream economics to critique the model, which would have been interesting. We tried to, but the candidate we reached out to was of the view that post-Keynesian economics is not scientific, and therefore did not want to participate in debating it. This in itself, I think, was an interesting illustration of the seemingly insurmountable paradigmatic differences within the economics discipline. Without an opposing view it was difficult, as I mentioned, to evaluate the validity of the model, but I found it convincing. Being familiar with Wynne Godley’s work (if not Georgescu-Roegen’s), particularly his prescient predictions about the Euro-crisis (in the 1992 London Review of Books article Maastricht and all that) and the recessionary effects of the Clinton surplus in the late 1990s (in the LROB 2000 article What if they start saving again? written just before the dotcom crash), I found the intellectual foundations to be reassuring.

The discussion afterwards made clear that there are plenty of potential other factors that could be applied to refine the model, for example having different variables for unemployment in advanced countries versus the developing world, where informal employment is widespread. Dafermos and his colleagues also plan to integrate the government sector and a central bank in the model, in order to model green investment policies and other state policies that would influence the climate. The project is yet in its early stage, it seems, and we look forward to see how it will develop. The seminar represents the beginning of a fruitful dialogue, I believe.

Written by: Max Jerneck

More about Yannis Dafermos project A New Macroecological Model here.

The Misum report ”Walking the talk” in Huffington Post

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Yesterday, Sunday 13:th of December, a text on the Misum report ”Walking the talk” by Lin Leopold, Uta Hönemann and Elisabet Ålander was published on The Huffington Post website. We are happy that our report is out there, and hope that our work will inspire organizations and institutions in other countries to conduct similar research. It is through spreading this knowledge that we can achieve a lasting positive change.

Volkswagen’s ”Dieselgate” has intensified the debate on corporate sustainability greenwashing. Although companies have increasingly professionalized their sustainability communication, external stakeholders are also voicing their concerns that there is more ”talk” than ”walk” in practice. 

In our recent study, ”Walking the Talk”, we explored how Sweden’s largest listed companies communicate and follow up on their sustainability work. We hoped to contribute with an external and independent stakeholder perspective on the interpretation of companies’ own publicly available sustainability information…”

Read the whole blogpost here.

Hur svart samvete har bankerna? undrar Misums Svenne Junker direkt från Cop21

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Mexikansk delegat som cyklat sig svettig för att ladda sin dator vid en laddningsstation på COP21.

Klimatmötet i Paris är i slutspurten. De flesta sänder fortfarande positiva signaler om utgången och de senaste avtalsförslaget är betydligt kortare och mer robust än tidigare versioner. Hittills ser det ut som en framgång. Från flera håll hör vi att förhandlingsmoralen är hög och att arbetet går framåt i snabb takt.

Knäckfrågan om vem ska betala klimatarbete i utvecklingsländer verkar däremot fortfarande hänga löst. Jag har tidigare argumenterat för att västvärldens stater inte ska behöva hosta upp allt detta kapital, utan hellre gå in som risktagare för att locka privat kapital till det lönsamma klimatarbetet i demokratiska utvecklingsländer som exempelvis Peru och Senegal. Genom att utveckla finansiella instrument som gröna obligationer kan stater mobilisera så mycket som fem privatfinansierade kronor för varje statligt satsad krona.

Nyligen visade en rapport från Naturskyddsföreningen och Fair Finance Guide att det fortfarande finns mycket svart guld i de svenska bankerna, kapital som istället borde investeras i det viktiga klimatarbetet. I rapporten, som jag var med och tog fram, visar vi att de fem största bankerna investerar 61,8 miljarder i världens 200 största fossilbolag. Bankerna utgör därmed en maktfaktor som i linje med IPCCs rekommendationer om att minska investeringarna i fossila bränslen och kraftigt öka investeringarna i förnyelsebar energi kan spela en avgörande roll.

I slutänden handlar det om vilka krav internationella organisationer, politiker och civilsamhället ställer på våra banker. Här kan vi själva agera genom att påverka så att dinosauriebankerna försvinner. Det är så bidra till att det stundande Parisavtalet förverkligas.

Skrivet av: Svenne Junker – direkt från COP21 i Paris

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Vindkraftverk på COP21-området.

“Tomorrow” – a must see!

demainClara My and I were very happy to receive an invitation by the French embassy in Sweden to attend the exclusive screening of the documentary “Tomorrow”. The event was hosted to raise awareness of the current climate change negotiations in Paris, #COP21. We were looking forward to this event, as the makers of the movie promise to take a very different approach to the complex issue of “global warming” than these type of documentaries usually take. After a warm welcoming speech by the French ambassador, Jacques Lapouge, we enjoyed two hours of watching inspiring cases and initiatives happening around the world that are driven by incredibly forward-thinking and creative individuals. The makers encapsulate the urgency of change and its solutions.
A ”must see”!
Se trailer here.
Written by Clara My Lernborg and Tina Sendlhofer, PhD students at Misum

Volkswagen Debacel: Who is to Blame?

The panel found diminished trust to be a major contemporary problem, writes Lars-Gunnar Mattsson, professor emeritus, Stockholm School of Economics and research manager at Misum.

The Volkswagen scandal was the theme for an interdisciplinary panel debate in Uppsala December 2. It was arranged by faculty and student associations at the Ångströms laboratory that houses university institutions for natural science and technology. The panel was composed of five researchers representing physics, technology, political science, economics and management. (A law professor had to cancel due to sickness). Some 50 students and faculty attended and many were active in the discussion. I was invited to participate in the panel. The discussion covered many aspects of the so called “dieselgate” such as how did the cheating and its discovery take place, who were involved, how can it be explained, what are the consequences for the VW, for the automotive industry, for the environment and for society at large? Who is to blame? How can the risks for similar cheating be eliminated or at least diminished?  What is e.g. the role and responsibility of business managers and employees, politicians, government agencies, civil society, education, research, media?  Since the investigation of the specific scandal is far from concluded we could only speculate based on information in media. Some of the discussion points were as follows. We found it likely that more than a few software engineers and low/medium level managers in VW and in the automotive industry knew of the cheating before it was discovered. The role of the international environmental organization, ICCT, to initiate and carry out an independent investigation was found to be crucial. We discussed how VW’s huge investment in a “Clean Diesel” campaign in the US since 2008, and the goal to become the world’ s largest auto manufacturer, might initiate a manipulation of the software to meet regulatory requirements and to manage the goal conflict between low levels of NOx and CO2 emissions. We found quite large differences between European and US markets, regulations and test procedures.

Societal trust and confidence (“tillit”) is diminished due to such cheating. This is an important negative effect. More elaborate test and control processes are required. The panel found diminished trust to be a major contemporary problem, as is evidenced also in how academia is governed.

The audience was equipped with mentometers and was asked before and after the debate to identify who, among 5 alternatives was most responsible for the cheating in the VW case. An interesting result was that, even if “top management” came first both before and after, “society at large” rose from last to second place after the debate. We all, not least in academic education and research have important roles to play.

Written by: Lars-Gunnar Mattsson, professor emeritus, Stockholm School of Economics and research manager at Misum

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Göran Nilsson, Uppsala universitet, Göran Larsson, SLU teknik, Shirin Ahlbäck Öberg, Uppsala universitet , Ulf Danielsson, Uppsala universitet and Misums Lars-Gunnar Mattsson.

Misums Tina Sendlhofer on the seminar ”The right to be cold”

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Today my PhD fellow Clara My and I attended a seminar at the Utrikespolitiska institute (Institute for international affairs) in Stockholm. The guest speaker was Sheila Watt-Coultier, an inspiring woman who just recently received one of the Right Livelihood Awards. Her short lecture was about her book “The right to be cold” in which she advocates Inuits’ rights. Her focus concerns a wide range of topics that are related to climate change. Her strong voice has lead to a shift in the discourse of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions that violate the collective human rights of the Inuit. Sheila’s lifelong project is to protect the Inuit of the Artic and defend their right to maintain their livelihoods and culture, which are acutely threatened by climate change.

It did not take too long and Clara My and I were captured by Sheila’s speech. Her sincere and personal involvement in the issue left us with a very strong and disturbed impression. Sheila discussed the effects of the climate change on the livelihood of the Inuits. I consider myself as being very concerned about climate change and global warming issues, but I have never thought about the possible current effects on the people living above the polar circle.

Sheila narrated from a very personal point of view, giving us blunt insights to the challenges in her childhood and the present challenges in the role as a grandmother. She grew up in a “fatherless” household and has been inspired her whole life by being surrounded by strong women. This has certainly shaped her character: being a strong, articulative, convincing woman, trying to spread the important message of protecting the human rights of Inuits. In addition to her personal life and experiences, she told us about the importance of the culture and knowledge of her people. Sheila vividly explained how knowledge has been passed on through generations and how younger generations are trained on the ice, where they learn how to survive, feed the family and live in harmony with nature. What a stark contrast to the childhood in the “new world”!

Indeed, it is inspirational to listen to a woman who dedicates her whole life to raise awareness of inequality and the urgent need for change. Her views and speech are so credible and convincing, because even though she travels around the globe, she still lives from time to time with her people. She experiences the climate change next-door by seeing the ice forming too late in the season, and melting too early in the following year. Listening to the stories of her people who cannot apply their multi-generational knowledge anymore, since the flora and fauna around them has changed with the climate. There is a lot to learn about the Inuits’ philosophy of livelihood, especially from the perspective of a “new world” citizen.

Sheila certainly provoked us to question our live-style and unawareness of the importance to protecting “Inuits of the Artic”, for the sake of humans and nature.

Seminar: ”THE RIGHT TO BE COLD – Fighting for Inuit Rights”
Date: TUESDAY, December 1, 2015, Utrikespolitiska institutet.
Infohere.
NEW LINK: See the seminar here.

 

 Written by Tina Sendlhofer, PhD student at Misum

Misums Svenne Junker direkt från COP21 i Paris: Knäckfrågan är vem som ska betala kalaset

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Med högt säkerhetspådrag inleddes FN:s klimatmöte i Paris av statsministrar och presidenter från över 150 av världens länder. Även svenske kungen var på plats. Under den första av tolv intensiva mötesdagar levererades tal efter tal från podiet om vikten att vidta kraftfulla åtgärder för att minska utsläppen av växthusgaser. Världens utvecklade ekonomier, menade Frankrikes president Hollande, måste ta sitt historiska ansvar. Christopher Loeak, president i Still havsrepubliken Marshallöarna som redan idag hotas av höjda havsvattennivåer, sade att kampen mot klimatförändringarna kommer att vinnas när vi avslutar vårt fossilberoende.

Sveriges statsminister Löfven ordnade dessutom ett eget pressmöte på morgonen där han utlovade 250 nya klimatmiljoner till världens fattigaste länder. Den stora knäckfrågan i Paris är nämligen fortfarande från vilken skattkista som pengarna till klimatomställningen ska tas. Även om Sverige per capita är den största bidragsgivaren till FN:s gröna klimatfond är våra 4,5 miljarder kronor fram till 2020 fortfarande bara en droppe i havet av kapital som faktiskt behövs. Världens länder har redan kommit överens om att det varje år behövs 1 000 nya miljarder till klimatfonden från 2020 för att matta av utsläppsökningarna trots en ökad ekonomisk tillväxt.

Internationell klimatfinansiering är ett komplext korthus att bygga. De flesta västländer bryr sig mest om kostnaderna för omställningen hemmavid. De oroas dessutom av att effektiva styrmedel som exempelvis koldioxidskatt på kort sikt hotar att minska konkurrenskraften för den inhemska industrin, förutsatt att inte hela det globala näringslivet möter samma förutsättningar. Samtidigt ställer sig de flesta av världens ledare bakom idén om klimaträttvisa. Att länder som är i stånd att utvecklas ekonomiskt faktiskt borde få göra samma välfärdsresa som Sverige och många andra länder har gjort tack vare oljan som billig energikälla.

En ny briefing från IIED visar att ett framgångsrikt klimatavtal i Paris inte bara behöver sätta skarpa mål för utsläppsminskningarna utan också prioritera mobiliseringen av privat kapital för nödvändiga klimatinvesteringarna i utvecklingsländerna. Det är heller ingen uppgift som borde vara omöjlig att fullfölja. Satsningarna i sol- och vindenergi, klimatvänlig infrastruktur och energieffektiviseringar kommer nämligen i de flesta fall att vara lönsamma. Det privata kapitalet behöver alltså bara en liten knuff i rätt riktning för att hamna rätt. Sverige, som varit föregångsland i att locka privata medel till klimatprojekt genom bland annat gröna obligationer, kommer förhoppningsvis vara en inspirationskälla under Parismötet.

Skrivet av: Svenne Junker

Lin Lerpold håller det akademiska talet i Blå hallen

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När jag tog min examen för 30 år sedan tog vi tog vår planet, vår materiella standard, obegränsade tillväxt, välstånd och välfärd för givet. Jag kan inte annat än att be om ursäkt för mina och mina föräldrars generations okunnighet och ohållbara levnad.
Konsekvensen av det ärver ni. Om mina barnbarn och era framtida barn ska möjlighet att uppleva allt det vackra vi själva haft förmånen att uppleva måste våra globala utmaningar lösas, och det måste göras snabbt.
Använd era nyvunna kunskaper, kombinera med vision, fantasi och energi och hjälp oss att lösa dessa utmaningar. Ni måste det.
Lin Lerpold, tillförordnad professor och chef för Misum, fick äran att hålla det akademiska talet vid Handelshögskolans diplomering den 7 november i Blå Hallen i Stadshuset – en tillställning präglad av allas vårt ansvar för klimatet och för att försöka lösa de globala kriserna.