Launch of global student-led initiative “Economists for Future” #Economists4Future

Student movement urges economists to step up to tackle the climate crisis

[Madrid, November 28] In the build-up to the international climate strikes ahead of COP25, students from across the globe are calling upon the economics community to raise its game and devise a more impactful contribution to tackling the climate crisis. So far, the overall contribution from economists has been nowhere near commensurate with the magnitude of the problem. The international initiative “Economists for Future” is launching today with the ambition to change that. Find the open letter here.

Economists are letting down the world on climate change

Every year, millions of young people embark on studying economics to help equip them to improve the state of the world. Yet, their education is failing to prepare them to tackle the greatest challenge of the century: the climate crisis. In most textbooks, the economy is detached from any ecological foundations. For example: climate change, the vulnerability of ecosystems and the unsustainability of bottomless resource consumption are largely ignored. The economists of the future must be fit for the context they serve in – they must learn to embed their thinking and methodologies within the context of a finite planet.

The situation in research is no better. The most-cited journal in economics, the ‘Quarterly Journal of Economics’, has never published an article on climate change. Of approximately 77,000 articles published in top economics journals, less than 0.1% address climate change. Even when economists do engage with the climate challenge, they often distort the problem. They include models that systematically underestimate risks, ignore crucial parameters like the value of biodiversity and do not reflect the potentially irreversible tipping points. These journals set a precedent for the rest of the discipline and their de-prioritisation of climate change is a matter of deep concern. One that is not just failing students but humanity too.

Students are taking responsibility, now they are calling on economists to do the same

“As students of economics we won’t stay quiet when our discipline is letting down the world” says Marc Beckmann, one of the organisers for “Economists for Future”. The open letter has been crafted by a small group of economics students from across the world that came together out of sheer frustration at the moral and analytical failure of the discipline they planned to commit their lives to. Across the world, students and economists are rising up and supporting this movement.

While it is true that some economists have had a significant contribution, overcoming this problem is going to require a response from right across the discipline. It is going to require economists to go beyond their academic silos and speak out in public about the consequences of climate inaction.

Economists can and must step up and help facilitate the zero-carbon transition towards a more prosperous and equitable world. Young people are taking responsibility for their future, it is time economists do the same.


Sam Butler-Sloss, student of Economics at the University of Edinburgh and an organiser for “Economists for Future”: “Economists say they take the climate science seriously. But the climate emergency has no time for empty words. It is very simple, if you take the climate science seriously then act accordingly: put it in our education, put it in the top journals, show leadership. As a student, there are many economists that I look up to for leading the way but there is no doubt that as a community they must go far further, faster.”

Philemon Ronoh, an organiser for “Economists for Future”: “In Kenya, climate change is already having a significant and negative effect on our lives and livelihoods. This is not a distant threat–this is now. This is one of the greatest global injustices we have ever seen. Economists have to be part of the solution or history will judge them harshly.”

Marc Beckmann, student of “Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics (PPLE)” at the University of Amsterdam and an organiser for “Economists for Future”: “What is ironic is that the economic discipline has been hammering home for several decades that they are ‘scientific’ while deprioritising the most important science of our day. Natural scientists have set out a clear case for economic transformation. Now as social scientists, we must in our field lay out a pathway that makes this transformation, at the speed the science demands, more achievable.”