Thursday, October 07, 2010

Shrink the Economy to Fight Global Warming Says Author of “Losing Our Cool”

How many times have we heard Al Gore, Thomas Friedman, and others say that unleashing green technology to fight global warming will also drive economic growth? But is economic growth really compatible with fighting global warming? No it isn’t says Stan Cox, the author of a new book entitled “Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths about Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer).” In an interview posted on Grist he cites a paper by an economics professor at the University of Utah which concluded that to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide below 450 ppm, considered by many scientists as the threshold for dangerous climate change, “the world economy is going to have to shrink by 1 to 4 percent per year over the next 40 years.” If that isn't bad enough news for consumption-obsessed societies he also says that we will need “a pretty massive transfer of wealth from wealthy individuals, areas, or countries to those that are less wealthy. When you say we have to reduce the output of the economy by so much each year, there are many, many people in the world that have nothing to reduce. They actually need a bit more production just to get the basic necessities of life.” That’s probably not going to go over too big in Tea Party circles or in the executive suites of major corporations.

A similar conclusion about the need to shrink the economy was reached in a study by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Britain. The study called for a reduction in living standards in the wealthier countries over the next 10 to 15 years.

Cox says that a different economic system is required. He also admits that “Unfortunately I'm not, and I'm not sure who is, smart enough to know how to get out of our situation.”

It seems our best hope is that these studies that call for a shrinking economy, a redistribution of wealth within countries and among countries, and even the end of capitalism are wrong. It seems impossible to imagine such radical change taking place within the next few years, which is when it would have to occur to be effective. Right or wrong it should be a topic of discussion in the mainstream press but even that seems too much to ask for.

Monday, October 04, 2010

India Moves into Third Place among Greenhouse Gas Polluters

India has a long way to go to catch up to China and the US when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions but it has finally passed Russia on the list taking over third position. At the moment India only accounts for 3% to 5% of emissions compared with 23% and 22% for China and the US, respectively, but with its huge and growing population and rapidly growing economy it is bound to close the gap with at least the US over the coming years. As it is, India, China, and the US account for about half of all emissions and this proportion will grow as India and China keep lifting people out of poverty and having such people adopt a much more energy hungry Western type of lifestyle.
Those who say that these three countries should get together and come to an agreement on limiting greenhouse gas emissions instead of relying on the UN process which requires that almost two hundred countries arrive at an agreement seem to make more and more sense as the UN process appears to be getting nowhere. The UN meeting in Cancun, Mexico in a couple of months should provide more information about whether or not the UN process should be abandoned. A more or less complete failure should be a signal that a new type of process is needed.