If you had to spend €100 to make a ton of CO2 emissions disappear, would you do it? Timo Goeschl asks questions like these of the participants in his studies. Goeschl is a professor of environmental economics at the University of Heidelberg. Among other things, he researches what people are willing to pay for more climate protection.
The 52-year-old studied economics in Innsbruck and at the University of Notre Dame in the USA, and wrote his doctoral thesis in Cambridge. “I was always looking for something where I could combine economics with the natural sciences,” says Goeschl. Today, he works on research projects together with physicists and geographers.
Approval for EU climate policy
Goeschl has joined forces with around 1200 other European environmental economists in the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE). There, he is involved as a representative for Germany, and as an interface between members in Germany and the European board.
EAERE repeatedly expresses its views on European climate policy; a statement on the EU’s current legislative plans from June was signed by more than 1000 researchers. In it, they support the EU’s plans and, in particular, European emissions trading. With declarations like this, EAERE wants to support politicians who advocate for climate policy in Brussels, says Timo Goeschl: “We want to show that there is a consensus and that politicians can refer to us here.”
More hearing for environmental economists
Goeschl would like to see more attention from policymakers on the economic dimension of climate issues. For the same reason, EAERE has a Policy Outreach Committee. How the proposals are received depends heavily on the country, Goeschl says: “In Germany, it’s not easy for environmental economists to be heard.”
He himself has already advised the Bundestag on the consequences of geoengineering, i.e., methods designed to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, for example. At the University of Heidelberg, Goeschl continues to research how people can be persuaded to do more to protect the climate. One thesis is that if we could see the emissions in our neighborhood directly, we would be more likely to take action ourselves. In another project, Goeschl and a team of psychologists and biologists are conducting research on Lake Victoria in East Africa, looking at the consequences of fishing in the lake.
For realistic results, all these research projects would always need the perspective of an environmental economist, Goeschl says: “We care about efficiency because nobody else cares.” Jana Hemmersmeier