Growth is not possible

Anneleise Hall's picture

It was interesting to read today this article published by BBC News today.

A group of researchers in the UK have challenged the "growth is good" model, warning that business as usual will likely lead to catastrophic and irreversible environmental consequences.

The New Economics Foundation (Nef) said "unprecedented and probably impossible" carbon reductions would be needed to hold temperature rises below 2C (3.6F). 

Nef's lead researcher for the climate change and energy programme Dr Victoria Johnson said there was no proven technological advance that would allow "business as usual" to continue.

"Magic bullets - such as carbon capture and storage, nuclear or even geo-engineering - are potentially dangerous distractions from more human-scale solutions."

This bold statement prompted a predictable reaction from an economic think tank:

Tom Clougherty, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, a free-market think-thank, said Nef's report exhibited "a complete lack of understanding of economics and, indeed, human development".

"It is precisely this economic growth which will lift the poor out of poverty and improve the environmental standards that really matter to people - like clean air and water - in the process, as it has done throughout human history," he told BBC News.

"There's only one good thing I can say for the Nef's report, and that's that it is honest. Its authors admit that they want us to be poorer and to lead more restricted lives for the sake of their faddish beliefs."

While Clougherty claims NeF's report shows "a complete lack of understanding of economics and, indeed, human development", he is not so forthcoming with his environmental qualifications to support his views or his expertise in human development.

Interesting that he considers growth is the only way for people to get food and clean water and no mention is made of the real problem - the current distribution of exisiting wealth.

Perhaps the corporations could downsize their corporate jets and banking bonuses... or perhaps one or two of the central bank billionaires would have to live without a super yacht and 10 mansions so a community (or perhaps small country) can have drinking water - unthinkable.

One also wonders at which part of human history he is referring to.

Obviously it is not to the communities around the world that have had their traditional food growing areas and waterways trashed by pollution and exploitation from countries such as the US who comprise 6 percent of the world's population but use over 30% of the world's resources.

He also fails to mention how growth will benefit these communities while we continue to maintain a system where money is created through interest-bearing debt - designed to make the majority of people poorer - not richer. Perhaps Clougherty would care to elaborate on this.

History has shown us that this model has created a world where 7% of the population now controls 99% of the wealth. While it is good to see articles like this actually making it to the mainstream media - we need a deeper conversation.

We need a conversation that moves beyond corporate "party lines", and has robust, in-depth debate and facts, rather than arrogant dismissal and scare-tactics.

Full article:

Economic growth 'cannot continue'

Continuing global economic growth "is not possible" if nations are to tackle climate change, a report by an environmental think-tank has warned.

The New Economics Foundation (Nef) said "unprecedented and probably impossible" carbon reductions would be needed to hold temperature rises below 2C (3.6F).

Scientists say exceeding this limit could lead to dangerous global warming.

"We urgently need to change our economy to live within its environmental budget," said Nef's policy director.

Andrew Simms added: "There is no global, environmental central bank to bail us out if we become ecologically bankrupt." None of the existing models or policies could "square the circle" of economic growth with climate safety, Nef added.

'No magic bullets'

In the report, Growth Isn't Possible, the authors looked at the main models for climate change and energy use in the global economy.

They then considered whether economic growth could be maintained while "retaining a good likelihood" of limiting the global average temperature to within 2C of pre-industrial levels.

The report concluded that a growth rate of just 3%, the "carbon intensity" of the global economy would need to fall by 95% by 2050 from 2002 levels. This would require an average annual reduction of 6.5%.

However, the authors said that the world's carbon intensity had "flatlined" between 2000 and 2007.

"For each year the target was missed, the necessary improvements would grow higher still," they observed. The findings also suggested that there was no proven technological advance that would allow "business as usual" to continue.

"Magic bullets - such as carbon capture and storage, nuclear or even geo-engineering - are potentially dangerous distractions from more human-scale solutions," said co-author Victoria Johnson, Nef's lead researcher for the climate change and energy programme.

She added that there was growing support for community-scale projects, such as decentralised energy systems, but support from governments was needed.

"At the moment, magic bullets... are getting much of the funding and political attention, but are missing the targets," Dr Johnson said.

"Our research shows that to prevent runaway climate change, this needs to change." The report concluded that an economy that respected environmental thresholds, which include biodiversity and the finite availability of natural resources, would be better placed to deliver human well-being in the long run.

Tom Clougherty, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, a free-market think-thank, said Nef's report exhibited "a complete lack of understanding of economics and, indeed, human development".

"It is precisely this economic growth which will lift the poor out of poverty and improve the environmental standards that really matter to people - like clean air and water - in the process, as it has done throughout human history," he told BBC News.

"There's only one good thing I can say for the Nef's report, and that's that it is honest. Its authors admit that they want us to be poorer and to lead more restricted lives for the sake of their faddish beliefs."

Link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8478770.stm

Living Economies www.le.org.nz  and http://livingeconomies.ning.com/

Here's the simple video explanation

economy and climate

Hi Aneleise,

    From my experience the link between the wealthy and the poor country as you mentioned does not work, it is simplistic. Same goes for the link between the world economy and the poor countries. If he gave up his wealth at the end you would see the poor country were still as they were and all the money would be in other people's pockets. Been there, seen that in the world there is a mad scramble for money that leaves the vunerable with nothing. Where is all the carbon dioxide generated? mainly in developed countries, like america. cutting back on this will affect them much more than the poor contries.

   The problem is a moral one, not thechnological or economic.

  

everth's picture

Intersting paper on the matter here...