Monday, 9 March 2015

Can You Have Economic Growth Whilst Tackling Climate Change?

Recent articles by Naomi Klein suggest that the scientific consensus on climate change has arrived at a bad time for the planet as it is concomitant with economic (and purchased media) power being in the hands of a few individuals (who are often in their positions for decades) and whose 'success' depends on us not necessarily doing the logical things. It is certainly the case that people in democracies (and I whole-heartedly prefer this system of government) appear more easily 'wooed' by promises of short-term gains than by undertakings to deal with, what seem to most folk, distant problems (actually Klein suggests that 2017 will be a tipping point for climate change-limiting action). The limited durations of terms of political office (generally a good thing) make long-termism a poor vote getter (and people wanting to get elected have twigged this). The provision of short-term goodies is, however, linked to economic growth and there is no good reason to believe that such state can continue anywhere indefinitely. I would argue that the burgeoning world population means that there will be rather strict limits on continued economic growth. In a perfect world, intelligent and honest people would do accurate risks versus benefits analyses on ways of doing things differently (e.g. there is no point building a dam to generate 'green electricity' unless the environmental costs of the utilised steel and concrete are considered in the equation). Perhaps we also have to ask the questions about whether we can have all the electricity/personal transport/ air-flights/stuff delivered by shipping that we 'want'? We could redirect economies away from hydrocarbons to solar/wind/tidal energy, improve the insulation of buildings and radically change our lifestyle/diet but even these would have finite effects. The question of equitable sharing of limited resources also arises. I hate to say it but it looks as if a cull is coming (and it won't be pleasant or, in any sense, fair). Hope I'm wrong!

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