English Summary of the pod cast episode
Outside in society we have corona restrictions, quarantine, distance work and distance education. Overall, we see very fast changes in society right now.
In sweden we now have at least a 20% reduction in traffic flows and in other places more than that. In china some reports even suggest that the reduced air pollution from the lock down of society has saved more lives from better air quality than are lost to Corona.
What are our major short and long term thoughts/insights from the corona crisis from the last few weeks?
- For years now we have talked about the year 2020 as the year when the carbon emission trends need to turn and start decreasing. Now we get this, but for an unexpected reason. From a scary and difficult pandemic. We seem to be able to make drastic changes of our behavior when we have a certain type of threat. We seem ready to do more when we are faced with possible death. Still, the current trend is not socially or economically sustainable since economies and people suffer from the global shutdown.
- Distance meetings and distance education seem to work relatively well and maybe we will continue to use this also after the crisis. We will have a chance to practice the new behavior many times so that new habits are formed.
- There are actually parallels to previous epidemics that hint that human behavior might be quite similar over time. A book by Daniel Defoe described the effects of the plague in London ’A journal of the plague year’ that is set in England in 1665. It is interesting that in that book people behaved in that epidemic more or less exactly as they do now. Similar spread of rumors, a mixture of solidarity and egoism, a focus on statistics, social distancing, etc.
What are our ideas on the more long term sustainability effects of the corona crisis?
- The type of shut down that we now see in the corona crisis cannot solve the climate crisis since it is not economically or socially sustainable Still, when governments now plan to reboot the economy after the crisis there is a big opportunity to have a green reboot of the economy that will in fact help solve the climate crisis.
- The idea of a green reboot of the economy could actually take inspiration from recent work with the so called green new deal in the EU and in China. The author Jeremy Rifkin has been an important inspiration to this movement and last year he laid out a plan for the US to learn from the experiences in the EU and in china and kick-start the build out of new societal key infrastructure that could take us into a new era of resource efficiency and sustainability. he calls this the third industrial revolution. In short this means to combine and strengthen the ongoing revolutions in digitalization and renewable energy to make retrofitted buildings the new suppliers of renewable energy that runs a clean transport system and economic system at large.
- There are many other actors that right now talk about a green reboot of the economy after the crisis. This involves Fatih Birol from the International energy agency, many politicians and Greenpeace, to mention a few.
What are some more practical ways to achieve the green reboot of the economies?
- Impose a globally applicable carbon emissions tax
- Remove all subsidies of fossil energy
- Channel funds into retrofitting large shares of the built environment into a distributed network of connected renewable energy power plants.
- Building new national smart energy grids
- Incentivize data centers and other core communication system nodes to build extra renewable energy capacity to make them independent of the grid and thereby making the communication and energy systems more ’bullet proof’ in relation to coming crises.
- Roll out electric vehicle charging systems with vehicle to grid capability that will make it possible for electric vehicles to balance the electric grid.
- Incentivize farmers, forestry industry, district heating and pulp and paper industry to develop the solutions for large scale carbon capture and storage that soon will have a huge global market.
- Educate students and reeducate workers to be able to take the new job opportunities in building the new systems.
What are some more economically oriented solutions that emerge in the debate?
- ’Helicopter money’ has been suggested in the US and elsewhere and the idea here is to give money directly to the citizens without passing the banking sector. The idea is that this would reduce the risk for that money is ’lost’ in less productive speculation that may build housing and asset prices bubbles. This and other adjustments to the monetary system to build more resilience against financial crises have been suggested by the group Positive Money, among others.
- Citizens bank accounts in the central bank for zero interest and risk free money. Positive Money and others have also suggested more reforms of the monetary system to reduce the risk of new financial crises due to speculation bubbles. In fact, without such precaution, a new financial crisis could be provoked by money pumped into the global economy for a restart after the corona crisis. One of the suggestions is that the private banks should not ’own’ citizens’ money but go back to be brokers of investment opportunities for a risk premium. The Swedish central bank is among the leading in the world in this aspect as they are preparing for all citizens to have zero interest risk free accounts in the central bank. Then the money will be secure there. If a private bank goes gets in trouble in such a system it will not jepoardize the payment system and will not be saved from a bankcruptcy. The citizens will also have the opportunity to get higher interest rates in private banks but they will take a risk of losing the money then. The idea is therefore that all actors then will be more risk averse and reduce the tendency for speculation bubbles.
- The discussion on universal basic income is also resurfacing as a way to make sure no-one ’falls between the cracks’ in the welfare systems. It remains to be seen if something along those lines will be agreed upon in the near term. There are some examples of trying out such systems in various places around the world.