“We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.” Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Action Summit Four years ago we denounced “green growth”. The idea is that we can continue to strive for economic growth while dealing with the environmental crisis. Despite her cautionary rhetoric, policymakers have continued to push growth despite ambitious decarbonization targets.
It’s easy to see why. GDP growth, the most common measure of economic size, correlates with many measures of human well-being. According to OurWorldInData, from 1990 to 2015, worldwide GDP It increased from $8,822 to $15,212 per person.In the meantime, worldwide Average life Percentage of Residents Increased 8 Years extreme poverty It dropped from 37.81% to 8.86%.
But as the Thunberg indictment suggests, the GDP story is not so simple. The coal, oil and gas industries that drive economic growth have resulted in a staggering increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.according to IPCC, which will cause an increase in the average global temperature, leading to sea level rise, biodiversity loss, declining food production, and more frequent and severe heat waves, storms and droughts. Moreover, the wealth created by GDP growth has been unfairly distributed.According to the Pew Research Center, from 1969 to 2016, the United States wealth inequality The gap between rich and poor households has more than doubled. If poor households had more purchasing power, this would not be a problem.However, today’s average hourly wage It has the same purchasing power as in 1978. This begs the question:
Why strive for limitless growth if we are only inflating the already heaping coffers of the wealthy while accelerating environmental disasters?
proposed by organizations like the IPCC Road to decarbonization This includes continued growth in GDP. They speculate that technologies such as renewable energy and carbon capture could be deployed rapidly and widely enough to decarbonize the expanding economy.
These plans rely on GDP growth occurring without environmental degradation, known as decoupling. however, Synthesis of 835 peer-reviewed studies was performed by Haberl et al. Decoupling was found only in a few countries where the decoupling rate was too slow to avoid catastrophic climate change. It’s common sense. Like running a race with a moving finish line, decarbonization becomes increasingly difficult as the economy expands. The evidence is clear. Economic growth is incompatible with avoiding ecological disasters.
This is the foundation of the burgeoning degrowth movement. It aims to deprioritize economic growth as a policy objective and reduce resource use in developed countries. Jason Hickel, economic anthropologists argue that we need to consider which sectors of the economy should grow and which should shrink.and sharp letterhe argues that the narrative of GDP and human progress is built on inaccurate metrics of human well-being and blatantly ignores the colonial legacy of economic growth. he quotes Research published in World Economic Review, predicted that it would take 100 years to eradicate poverty under its current growth trajectory – defined as just $1.25 per day. and would have spread catastrophic environmental harm. Simply put, global GDP growth impedes progress, despite what surface-level trends suggest.
This may challenge your instincts. After all, wouldn’t a contraction of economic activity cause unemployment and poverty? Surprisingly, study Created by Millward-Hopkins et al. estimates that his 60% of the current energy used in the global economy will be enough in 2050 to provide a quality standard of living for a world population that has grown by about 30%. And it confirms that the contraction of developed economies does not require a drastic decline in living standards. This suggests that tackling hierarchical and systemic injustice and equitably distributing wealth can expand access to a better quality of life. This can be achieved through policies such as progressive taxation, universal basic income and universal health care and education.
economist Kate Laworth developed the concept of “Donut Economy” To represent the belief in degrowth. Under this analogy, the global economy is constrained by a minimum social base and a maximum ecological ceiling. In between is a “safe and just space for humanity” where the economy provides all people with access to essential services without crossing the boundaries of the planet.
It may be hard to believe that we can achieve this utopia, but if we continue to believe in the “fairy tale of eternal economic growth,” humanity will face environmental disaster. Why not abandon the dream of unlimited wealth and pursue a just economy that respects the constraints of the planet while providing a high standard of living for all?
Thomas Bonitz is a 6th semester geoinformatics and economics dual major at the University of Connecticut.