Because he refuses to fly back to Germany from a research trip, his employer threatens to fire him. This is what the economist Dr. Gianluca Grimalda. The researcher at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) only travels in the most climate-friendly way possible, he says. He has just completed six months of field research in Papua New Guinea, where he examined the connections between globalization, climate change and social cohesion.

Now he wants to go back to Germany. But instead of getting on a plane, as most people would do, the scientist and climate activist from “Scientist Rebellion” wants to go on an odyssey lasting several weeks by ship, train and bus. This would significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, writes Grimalda in a press release.

“I refuse to fly back and am determined to stick to my no-fly plan,” says the climate activist. “Ultimately, it’s also about my mental health. My mental state can only be described as climate anxiety, and flying can only worsen this condition.”

Nevertheless, his employer, the IfW, asked him on September 29th to come back to work in Kiel on October 2nd, which would have meant a plane ride, said Grimalda. If he does not appear at the IfW, this would lead to his dismissal, according to the press release. “The IfW justifies this decision with the need to adhere to the original research schedule, as the approval for the stay abroad expired on September 10th,” the researcher continues.

“Given the climate emergency we find ourselves in, I find it inappropriate for the IfW to issue this ultimatum and this punishment,” says Grimalda. “Since I don’t teach and the sessions can be held online, my presence in Kiel is not required. I can also work effectively while on the go.”

For Grimalda, the “state of emergency that we have reached with global warming” requires extraordinary measures. “I hope that my decision to risk losing my job will help break the wall of apathy, indifference and greed that surrounds global warming.” Even if this doesn’t work, he is satisfied that he has done the morally right thing, namely minimizing the CO2 emissions of his trip.

Grimalda began his journey to Papua New Guinea in February this year and documented it on X, formerly Twitter. He drove from Kiel to Milan and from there via Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore to Papua New Guinea. According to his own statements, he never used an airplane once. He even took unpaid leave for the outward journey, he told the “Kieler Nachrichten”.

“It is extraordinary that a research institute threatens to dismiss a researcher because he does his work too conscientiously and forgoes flights during a climate crisis,” says Julia Steinberger, professor of the social challenges of climate change at the University of Lausanne, in Grimalda’s press release.

When asked by Stern, the IfW did not want to comment in detail on Grimalda’s allegations and wrote in a written answer: “In principle, the IfW Kiel does not comment on internal personnel matters in public. This serves to protect our employees and also applies to this case. “

In general, the institute supports its employees in making business trips climate-friendly. The institute has already supported Grimalda’s “slow travel” activities in the past. “Slow travel” means slow but climate-friendly travel. Grimalda also organized his trip in consultation with the IfW Kiel.

Julia Steinberger sees another reason for Grimalda’s possible dismissal: “The IfW Kiel seems to be taking revenge for Gianluca’s previous participation in protests in the form of civil disobedience with the ‘Scientist Rebellion’.” The Kiel researcher also receives support from the German climate activist Luisa Neubauer. “All solidarity,” she writes on X.

In fact, Grimalda took part in an action in Wolfsburg last October as an activist for “Scientist Rebellion”. The activists hijacked a pavilion there and stuck me in front of Porsche cars, as the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung” reported at the time. At the time, Grimalda complained about poor treatment from Volkswagen.

The institute he has been working for for ten years has already given him a warning, Grimalda said on However, the field research had to be extended due to “security threats,” he explained. He admits that he reported the delays to his department head, but not to the administration.

“I offered to take as long of unpaid leave as they deemed appropriate. But they rejected my offer and even withheld my September salary without informing me beforehand,” writes Grimalda. He told the “Kieler Nachrichten” that this was “dramatic” for him because he had to take care of his demented mother. “Did I really deserve this treatment because I was overzealous to complete my fieldwork with the desired sample size?” he asks on X.

On Thursday, Grimalda posted on the platform that the return journey would soon begin. He got permission to travel on a freighter. It is still unclear how long his journey back to Kiel will take and whether he will still have his job. “I am willing to pay this price if it helps raise public and social leadership awareness of the desperate situation we find ourselves in,” Grimalda writes in an article. “Perhaps that would mean giving up what I love most in my life and what I have sacrificed a lot for: research.”

Sources: Dr. Gianluca Grimalda at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, press release Grimalda, “Kieler Nachrichten”, SHZ, Gianluca Grimalda at X, article by Gianluca Grimalda, “Leibniz Magazin”, “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung”