Written By: - Date published: 11:20 am, October 26th, 2018 - 86 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, economy, Economy, energy, Environment, greens, International, political alternatives, poverty, quality of life, Social issues, sustainability, vision - Tags: green growth, sanity, sustainability, vision
The content of this post comes from an article in Foreign Policy magazine by Jason Hickel that’s titled Why Growth Can’t Be Green. I read it in light of New Zealand having a Green Party that talks of a Green Economy while signing itself up to economic constraints and programmes straight from a liberal economic playbook. I suppose some people will argue that the Green Party isn’t advocating for growth with talk of business opportunities in a world of global warming, or with talk about transition, economic prosperity and “green” jobs. That as it may be…
A team of scientists led by the German researcher Monika Dittrich first raised doubts [about green growth] in 2012. The group ran a sophisticated computer model that predicted what would happen to global resource use if economic growth continued on its current trajectory, increasing at about 2 to 3 percent per year. It found that human consumption of natural resources (including fish, livestock, forests, metals, minerals, and fossil fuels) would rise from 70 billion metric tons per year in 2012 to 180 billion metric tons per year by 2050. For reference, a sustainable level of resource use is about 50 billion metric tons per year—a boundary we breached back in 2000.
researchers assumed a tax that would raise the global price of carbon from $50 to $236 per metric ton and imagined technological innovations that would double the efficiency with which we use resources. The results were almost exactly the same as in Dittrich’s study. Under these conditions, if the global economy kept growing by 3 percent each year, we’d still hit about 95 billion metric tons of resource use by 2050.
Last year the UN Environment Programme had a go.
It tested a scenario with carbon priced at a whopping $573 per metric ton, slapped on a resource extraction tax, and assumed rapid technological innovation spurred by strong government support. The result? We hit 132 billion metric tons by 2050.
So we need a hard sinking cap, either just on fossil and allowing the knock on effect from that to affect other resource use and general behaviours and practices, or as Dan O’Neill would have it, we need a raft of hard sinking caps across the board, because with current economic settings (capitalism)…
But it’s all good. Us lot in rich countries aren’t getting any happier with increasing levels of consumption. And we have an opportunity to be happier and avoid tanking the planet into the bargain!
… ending growth doesn’t mean that living standards need to take a hit. Our planet provides more than enough for all of us; the problem is that its resources are not equally distributed. We can improve people’s lives right now simply by sharing what we already have more fairly, rather than plundering the Earth for more. Maybe this means better public services. Maybe it means basic income. Maybe it means a shorter working week that allows us to scale down production while still delivering full employment.